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Looking for: Alpha to Match Swimsuit

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Castiel loved his niece, he really did. She knew what she wanted in life, she was unfailingly kind and she had no qualms about speaking her mind. Unfortunately, her charming and strong-willed way had the side-effect of making Castiel do things he knew he'd later regret.

"Come on, Cas! You said this would be your very first holiday alone, without Old Nick and Jack!" she said, standing on his porch, her jeep parked on the street. It was clear that Claire had no intention at all to come in even though Luke was at work. So either Cas would have to leave her standing on the porch, which she just knew he would be too polite to do, or he'd have to give in and let her drag him out.

"You really shouldn't call your uncle that," Castiel admonished her automatically, the argument being old enough for it to be an almost performative part of their greeting ritual. Claire groaned, her typical drawn out, impatient, petulant groan, that she had perfected around the age of 8. Luckily, it was something Jack had never picked up from her. "I don't know… I have everything I need."

Cas heard the stairs creak behind him and soon enough Jack was skipping into the entrance hall, curious to see who was at the door. He was popping his chewing gum.

"Hello!" he greeted cheerfully, lifting his hand in his signature gesture. Claire grinned at him and soon her expression turned calculating. This didn’t bode well for Castiel.

"I was just trying to get your dad to come shopping with me! Do you want to come along too?" she asked. Now it was Castiel's turn to groan, but he suppressed it as best as he could. Claire was already grinning enough.

"Oh? We just came back from grocery shopping," Jack said, dubious of Claire's plans.

"Not grocery shopping! Cas is gonna go on vacation soon, right? And I just think he should buy himself a nice new outfit for it! You know, to wear to the beach!" Castiel watched his son's carefree chewing slow down, as he mulled it over. He clearly was intrigued. "Do you remember when your dad last bought something nice for himself?"

"I buy plenty of nice things for myself," Cas muttered defensively, but Jack latched on to Claire's argument quickly.

"No, you don’t, Dad. You buy nice things for Father and for me, and basically everyone, but whenever you want to get something nice for yourself you put it back. Like the flowers earlier? You wanted them but you didn't buy them!" Jack argued.

"You know what your father thinks about flowers," Castiel said.

"That there are plenty of roses in the garden, yes I know," Jack said impatiently. "But the point is that you wanted them and you didn't buy them." Castiel looked at Claire, hoping that she would telepathically understand his sarcastic "thank you for this". From the way the kid grinned, she probably did.

"Besides," Jack continued, "I don't think I've ever seen you in anything else than the same black shorts and t-shirt whenever we were at the beach."

"Yes, every family vacation, Cas brings out the sensible black trunks that he probably got before we were born," Claire said and yawned exaggeratedly. "Boring."

"After Jack was born actually," Castiel mumbled, but he already knew that he had lost the battle of wills against the united power of these teens. "Fine. I'll grab my wallet," he muttered in defeat. Claire and Jack grinned at each other.

"Can I drive?!" he heard Jack call when he went to fetch his wallet from the coffee table in the living room. He did let his eyes travel over the photographs on the wall, some of them of beach vacations with his family, sometimes with Luke and his brothers or with Jimmy and Claire. And he did always wear the same outfit. But why fix something that wasn't broken, right?

"Nope! You drive like a grandma and we want to be there before closing time!" Claire yelled from outside.

Castiel took a deep, fortifying breath. Then he walked out of the house to go on a shopping trip with two teenagers.

As it turned out Jack and Claire had a whole lot of ideas about what a married man in his 40s was supposed to wear on a relaxing vacation to the beach. Castiel was sitting on the little sofa in the corner, getting increasingly more disgruntled and embarrassed, as the two went through the store. Castiel could have been in and out of the first department store he saw with another unassuming pair of shorts and maybe a sun hat, but no. For some reason Claire had decided that this would be a good moment to remember that he was a "beautiful, strong omega" and that he deserved to have some sexy lingerie. Jack's initial confused question if the lingerie store wasn't just for women, was met with Claire's firm assurance that everyone could wear lingerie, even an alpha boy like Jack!

"Just… don't show your dad, he's not very forwards thinking," Claire warned him and Castiel was disappointed to admit to himself that she was probably right. Jack however was still all smiles, intrigued to learn more about it.

"Oh, that's okay. I prefer my Star Wars pajamas anyway."

"You're such a nerd," Claire told him, boxing his shoulder playfully. "I swear if anyone bullies you in college, I'll go beat them up!" Jack tilted his head at her, his eyebrows drawn down.

"Max, Stacy and Eliot said the same thing. Why do you all think that I'm going to let anyone bully me?" he said with a frown.

"It's because you're sweet and you're a nerd. You get that from your dad," Claire said with a wink. Castiel had listened to the conversation with a bit of a heavy heart. The idea of Jack away at college, leaving him with an empty house, an emotionally (and usually also physically) distant husband and a job going nowhere was hardly something he wanted to ponder. But he'd have to face it eventually. His friends had more or less decided for him that he deserved a vacation so that he could take his mind off of it. Castiel was pretty sure sitting alone at the beach without his kid for the first time in 18 years would just make him miss Jack more.

He must have spaced out for longer than he thought, because soon he found himself with a lapful of fabric and a grinning Claire and Jack standing in front of him.

"We made a selection! Go on, try them on!" Claire said with an almost challenging tone. Castiel looked from the kids' faces down to the colorful pile in is lap. He plucked one item out of it, a fiery red thing that looked like it wouldn't cover anything. He lifted his eyebrows at the kids.

"It's from the men's section, your penis will fit in it," Jack said which had Claire recoil instantly.

"Ew! Don't talk about your dad's junk! Come on, Jack!" she said, shoving him towards the cabins, disregarding his protests. Castiel slowly got up, gathering the shorts and speedos and the swimsuits in his arms, making his way over to the changing rooms, like a man moving to the gallows. (Yes, okay, he was being dramatic, having two teenagers around has rubbed off on him.)

He caught the eye of one of the store attendants on his way there and she shot him an encouraging smile.

"I see you are in good hands already, but if you need help, just call. I'm happy to help find you the right fit," she said.

"Thank you," he said and he must have looked more haggard than he assumed because she laughed. It was a kind laugh however. "I assume you might get a couple of overwhelmed omega men…"

"Yes, more than you'd think," she said, "which is a damn shame. I wish more omega men would discover lingerie. Any men actually," she added with a wink. "Anyway, I'm Meg, and I'll just be over here if you need rescuing."

Fortified, though still not really sure he agreed that he was the kind of man who should discover lingerie for himself, he joined the kids.

Castiel had assumed that the kids had internalized that he was a boring guy who found comfort in routine. He had expected floral swim trunks, maybe even a tight speedo if they were being daring. But he'd been wrong and underestimated their eagerness to dress him up. Was this maybe a prank? A tictac challenge or whatever the name was? (Even though Jack loved to watch Youtube videos for hours, he wasn't all that interested in social media so Cas wasn't up to date.) Maybe a 'Pick an "old" person and make them wear "fashionable" stuff' challenge?

In any case, Castiel didn't even want to put on the thing that Claire had selected for him; it was a neon yellow bikini that was frilly on the bottom and nearly nonexistent at the top.

"I won't put this on," he told her when she and Jack pushed their heads into the changing room, at least holding on to the curtain to make sure nobody else could see him.

"I just wanted to see your reaction to that," Claire said and Castiel was tempted to throw the scrap of fabric at her, but he didn't want to get in trouble with Jimmy.

"Maybe the red bikini, it's sexy," Jack suggested, pointing at the equally offending looking item.

"Why not just a nice swim trunk?" Castiel asked instead but Claire instantly wrinkled her nose.

"You are going to the beach, Cas. You are a hot omega with a hot body, so you should put on something sexy and let everyone buy you drinks!" Jack looked at his cousin with a dubious expression but eventually he seemed to defer to her greater experience in all things omega fashion and omega beach vacations.

"I'm a married father in his 40s, this isn't the kind of beach vacation you're imagining!" Castiel argued, then he turned towards the pile of clothing.

"Being admired by alphas doesn't hurt, your ego could use the boost," Claire told him, her voice suspiciously careful. "No offense, Jack, but your dad isn't exactly the most appreciative husband."

"Oh, no, I know," Jack said, not bothered at all, though it caused a pang of sadness in Cas. The boy did idolize his father, or had for a long time. He didn't want him to lose that. Jack tilted his head, studying Cas.

"You don't have to flirt with others," Jack said, "or have sex." Cas definitely wouldn't be having sex, but he was sort of uncomfortable with the fact that his son was so casual about it. He had always been very open with Jack about sexuality, designation and gender, not wanting him to grow up feeling weird about his body or sex. But that was about Jack, not himself! "But this is a vacation for you, so you can feel good. I think you should buy something that you like and feel comfortable in."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Jack," Cas said, "but I don't know if bikinis are for me. I don't have the build for it."

"That's not true," Jack argued before Claire could start one of her speeches. "Try some of the things we selected. If you don't like anything, then we can go somewhere else." Cas heaved a sigh.

"Fine." Claire and Jack both grinned at him and then they pulled their heads back out of the cabin, letting the curtain fall closed.

Castiel studied the pile and then carefully hung all of them up on the various hooks around the cabin. Most of them were atrocious, something he wouldn't even have worn back in the 90s when there was a strong omega rights wave and Cas had tried to be a bit more daring. (That's how he met Luke but the daring didn't last past their wedding.) There were some that looked more normal.

And then there was one thing that did catch his eyes. It was two pieces. The bottom a pretty sunflower yellow with a modest cut that wouldn't show too much of his ass. The top looked like a regular halter top, cut a bit short, with thin straps. It was white with a sunflower print. Cas had to admit it was beautiful. He checked the tag. "Sunny Omega" it read, the O in the shape of the male sign. It was pretty corny but still Cas had to smile a bit.

He studied it for a while longer, hearing the kids chat outside, but then he took a determined, fortifying breath and put it on.

"It's amazing, Cas, you're going to be the hottest eye candy on the beach! For 40-year-olds of course," Claire assured him and he rolled his eyes. But he was glad that the kids talked him into it. The bikini had felt good and it had looked amazing as well, once Cas got over the initial internal barrier of seeing himself wearing something so feminine. But the kids were right, this was his first vacation alone in years, he did it for himself, why not also indulge a bit and try something new? He had a good beach towel, a hat, nice sunglasses, copious amounts of sunscreen and his e-reader. Together with this new swimsuit he actually felt ready for something new. And life after your only child leaves the house to live at college, that was as new as it was ever gonna get for Cas.

"Thank you for the shopping trip," he said, receiving a grin from Claire. "Say hi to your parents for me, alright?"

"Sure thing!" she said, then Cas got out of the Jeep. Jack was already at the front door, waiting there while sipping his Frappuccino. Cas took his shopping bag out of the trunk and then looked towards the house. Luke's car was in the driveway. They had taken longer doing the shopping than he had thought. But it was Pizza day, so he didn't have to worry about taking too long to prepare dinner. Still, he felt unease pool in his stomach. He'd just put the shopping bag away into his office. Not wanting to keep Jack waiting, he walked to the door, looking back at Claire who sent him an encouraging thumbs up.

"Don't let Old Nick ruin this for you! Drop him before you drop the swimsuit!" Claire called cheekily, then she rolled up her windows and drove away. Cas heaved a sigh.

He opened the door and got it. Jack followed on his heels, still slurping, and headed towards the stairs.

"Hello!" he greeted loudly and Cas wondered if he still had the time to dash to his office, but Luke came out of the living room. He still wore his work clothes, a ridiculously expensive white linen suit, though he had already discarded the tie.

"Hello Jack. Where were you?" he asked, then looked at Cas. His eyes travelled down, zeroing in on the shopping bag. So far there was no particular judgement on his face. As an accountant, Cas was the one who was responsible for the household finances, but that didn't stop Luke from frequently second-guessing Cas' handle of money. Of course, Cas in turn wasn't allowed to ask why Luke spent 200$ in a fancy restaurant or dropped 1000$ at a high-class hotel (there was no point in asking questions you knew the answer to anyway).

"Out shopping with Claire and dad," Jack said and when Luke nodded, he went up the stairs. And now Luke's eyes were on the shopping bag.

"Anything exciting?" he asked smoothly, flashing Cas his usual charming grin, but there was always a hint of intimidation in Luke's demeanor. Luke always said that it came naturally to him because he was an alpha, but Cas felt there was no need to wield it like a weapon against your own family. But Cas had learnt how to face it over the years.

"The kids made an argument that I have been wearing the same swimsuit for years. I agreed with them and got something new," Castiel told him, but still kept a hold on the bag. Luke studied him, then he crossed his arms, leaning back against the wall.

"So show me then," he challenge, which had Cas clutch the bag even tighter. Luke approached, reaching out his hands to put them on Castiel's upper arm. "Make it a little show." He winked at Cas, then he stepped away, patting Cas' cheek before he crossed his arms over his chest expectantly.

"Since when are you interested in my clothing?" Cas asked, one eyebrow raised. Lucifer's eyes dropped down.

"Since you obviously try to hide the bag from me. A bag which clearly reads Bellomega." Luke made a show of taking out his phone and typing on it. "Which, as a scroll through their website shows, is a lingerie brand for omega men." Luke put the phone back in his pocket and lifted his eyebrows expectantly. "And clearly the lingerie you buy is intended to be seen by me."

"It's a swimsuit, Luke, not lingerie," Castiel corrected him but Luke's smile only widened.

"All the more reason for me to see, isn't it? You've worn the same thing for going on 20 years and now you go on vacation without me and you buy a new swimsuit? From an omega lingerie brand? Surely I get to see it." Luke's eyes flashed red when Castiel didn't move. "Go on, pet, put it on," he said with a cool grin.

It wasn't worth the argument and Cas had nothing to be embarrassed of, so he went upstairs to their bedroom, Luke hot on his heels, but Cas locked him out of their bathroom. Even though he had no reason to, Cas already felt humiliated. This was just a swimsuit and it wasn't like Cas was afraid of Luke or compelled to follow his orders when he flashed alpha red eyes. But still… why bother. With a bit of a heavy heart he pulled out his sunflower bikini and put it on.

"I'm waiting, pet," Lucifer called. Cas rolled his eyes, but then he shot himself one more look in the mirror. He looked good. Reassured in this knowledge, he opened the bathroom door and stepped out. Luke was sitting on the armchair next to the wardrobe, his legs crossed.

Cas stood in front of him, then raised his arms from his sides a bit. He was no longer 20 and vying for Luke's approval and praise. He wasn't going to put on a show for him.


Luke looked him up and down, his expression hard to read, but then he burst out laughing.

"Are you serious?!" he managed to say between bouts of laughing. "Oh man, Cassie, you look ridiculous!" Cas flinched, but luckily it was anger and not hurt that followed in the wake of Luke's words.

"Contrary to what you must believe, I do have eyes. I know it doesn't look ridiculous," he told him. Luke chuckled some more, but then he looked at Cas with a pitying expression, still smiling at him.

"You are 44 years old, Cas. You've got no tits, your legs are hairy and you're covered in stubble. Of course you look ridiculous! Back when we met and you were a slip of an omega, then maybe you could have worn this. But now? A male omega in a sunflower swimsuit? Please, it screams desperate."

"I disagree," Castiel told him and even though Lucifer's words did hurt some part of him, the anger at his husband trying to humiliate him still far outweighed the hurt. "Claire and Jack both liked it and I do too. You're not going to the beach with me, so you don't have to look at it." At this Luke's face changed to a sneer.

"Oh, come on! You know Claire is a bad influence on our alpha son! Jack's already far too soft! Slurping ridiculous girly drinks! Accompanying you to an omega lingerie store! He's a proud alpha for god's sake! You're debasing him and I told you multiple times that I don't want those two to hang out!"

"You're being ridiculous," Cas scoffed and went into the bathroom to undress.

"Ridiculous?! I'm concerned about what kind of person my alpha son will grow up to be! And I'm concerned that you'll go to the beach dressed like a whore!" Luke shouted. Cas bit his lip to stop himself from shouting something obscene back or storming back out to kick him in the nuts. At least he could fantasize about it. He pulled off his bikini and swiftly got back into his shorts and t-shirt.

"It's a modest bikini," Cas said, once he came back outside, forcing his voice to remain calm. He wasn't going to stoop to Luke's nasty level.

"Take it back," Luke demanded and Cas turned his frown towards his husband.

"Excuse me?" he asked but Luke pushed past him to grab the bikini and the Bellomega shopping bag out of the bathroom. He then tossed them all at Cas, who at least reacted quickly enough to catch the things.

"You're going to take this thing back," Luke repeated, the order clear in his voice. Cas raised his head defiantly.

"I will not," he said and Luke looked like he was two seconds away from snarling at him, his eyes flashing red.

"You are my husband, my omega! And I will not be humiliated by you trying to attract some knotheads in this ridiculous thing! I won't allow you to wear this rag to the beach!" he shouted, stomping up to Cas, getting all up in his face. Maybe this would have impressed Cas years ago, but now?

"Allow me? Are you out of your mind?" Cas hissed at him, not backing down in the slightest. "And who are you talk about humiliation?" Luke narrowed his eyes at him. "What do you think I felt like when you cheated on me? When you continue to cheat on me? You never even tried to hide it. And I should have called it quits after the first time you asked me to pay your 3000$ weekend with that escort girl!"

"I'm an alpha!" Luke said dismissively. "And I'm important in my company. I have to attend plenty of functions and eye-candy on my arm is expected!"

"Yes, you've told me all about how you couldn't take your boring, bland looking accountant husband. It would tank your reputation," Castiel told him sharply. Luke merely shrugged.

"You're getting way to emotional about this, which is typical," he dismissed. Cas couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"You're unbelievable!" he said, then he put his swimsuit back into the shopping bag.

"Buy something useful once you returned it!" Luke called after him.

"I am not returning it!" Castiel shouted, ignoring Luke as he walked over to Jack's room and knocked. Jack opened after a moment, headphones around his neck.

"Jack, grab your stuff, we're having pizza night at Anna's place," he said. Jack didn't question it, chirping a quick "okay" before he went back into his room to grab his backpack.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Luke asked, grabbing Cas' arm and giving him a shake. "Do you want me to get angry?"

"I'm doing what I should have done years ago," Cas told him, freeing his arm. "We're done." Luke stared at him, so Cas walked past him.

"Good-bye father," Jack said, and then followed Cas downstairs and out of the house. And that was that.

Of course, a divorce was much more stressful than Cas would have wanted it to be, but he felt good about it, even if he was exhausted.

"I feel like an idiot," he muttered, lying on Anna's pull-out couch. Jack was spending the night at Jimmy's place, so that Cas could have an evening of lamenting and drinking wine with his cousin.

"Why? Because you didn't divorce Old Nick sooner?" Anna joked, already deep into her third glass of the evening. Cas groaned and looked up at her.

"Doing all of this over a stupid swimsuit," he said. "Divorce is complicated. At least Jack is no longer a minor… That's a small comfort."

"Cas, you didn't ditch Luke for the swimsuit. The swimsuit was just the latest of a long string of insults you had to suffer from your own husband. Cas, you shouldn't have to endure your husband humiliating you," she declared and toasted him. "Now drink up." Cas did then he licked his lips.

"I did for years," he muttered.

"And now you grew some balls and stopped it," Anna said sagely, but then she frowned and looked at him. "Figuratively. Since you don't have balls, do you?"

"No, I'm still an omega, Anna. Sending Luke packing didn't magically make me grow testicles," he said with a chuckle. Somehow this was very funny. "Luke's an assbutt but I got Jack out of it."

"Yeah… Jack's such a sweetheart," Anna said, her voice sounding exactly the way it did when she looked at cute kitten videos. She even had that touched face and was holding her free hand to her chest. "He seems to be handling the divorce pretty well."

"Yes… He is disappointed because you know how he idolized Luke, but I think hanging out with Claire as much as he did really helped him put things into perspective. He can still love his father and also understand that the way Luke treated me wasn't right and that we would all be happier if we weren't living together anymore."

"And are you? Happier I mean?" Anna wondered. At that Cas heaved a sigh.

"I don't know. I didn't really love him anymore… But I miss knowing that I will come back home from work to a family… Having to give up the house was a blow… Not having someone to help me through a heat is a nuisance…" Anna nodded sympathetically. "I suppose I'm just stressed."

"Yeah, I get it. Luckily, you'll be hanging out at the beach in your cute sunflower bikini, sipping drinks and turning hot alphas' heads in less than two weeks!" she said, winking at Cas.

"Yeah right," Cas huffed. "A male omega in his forties who just got through a divorce and is sad about his only child going to college. I'm a catch."

"You're such a dramatic drunk, seriously," Anna said, laughing in amusement. "You'll have a good time! I guarantee it!" Cas smiled at her, nodding tentatively. He hoped that he would at least be able to relax a bit. Because he really did earn this vacation.

Claire had an idea. And she thought that while it was risky, it was actually a very good idea.

"You want to make my dad a dating profile?" Jack asked and licked the milkshake off his lips. "I don't think he'd like that."

"Maybe not initially, but imagine how much he'd like it if he met a nice person, someone who can accompany him to the beach, rub sunscreen on his back, admire his beach outfit…"

"Yes, that's very important," Jack agreed, but then he frowned. "I'm not sure… Dad has been with my father for so long, maybe he'll benefit from being single for a little bit." That was what Claire's parents had said too. To just let Cas lick his wounds, enjoy life as a single for a while and then figure out where to go from there. But Cas had been so unappreciated in his relationship for so long, why wait even longer to search for that kind of happiness again?

"It's just sad, you know? Your dad is such a good guy and he deserves to be loved by the right person," she insisted. Jack seemed torn, but he did give a tentative nod. "And he can still say no. If we find him a date in less than two weeks good! If not, then at least we tried! Surely it's better than just let him mope."

"I guess."

"Great! So I've got some ideas already," she said and pulled out her mobile phone. "We just need to set it up."

"Uh-huh," Jack muttered, slurping on his milkshake while Claire's stood next to her, mostly forgotten.

"So he's an omega male looking for… I don't know. He's gay, right? But what about designation? Does he care?"

"I'm not sure… When he and Anna talk it's always about alphas…"

"Well, okay. Alpha, check. Male, check," Claire said and Jack stretched over the table to be able to catch a look at the screen. "And now just a good picture."

"Oh! I have one, take this!" Jack said and quickly got out his phone to send Claire one he took of Cas in Anna's garden, wearing his bikini out of pure spite for his ex-husband.

"That's great, exactly what we need! And now, profile is done! We just have to wait and see!"

Dean had never been interested in online dating. He knew how to pick up someone in a bar, but truth to be told… he didn't really feel like it anymore. Since he and Lisa had decided to end their relationship, Dean had somewhat… drifted. He always had to travel a lot for his job and it had taken its toll on his relationship. He had joked with his co-workers that if you were single, this kind of job would be ideal to hook up with people. A new city every other week, new bars, new hunting grounds for an alpha such as him. But now that he was actually single…? It didn't appeal to him all that much. He no longer was a carefree 20 something year old, unattached alpha. He was pushing 40 and while that was no issue at all, he kind of found he simply wasn’t feeling the whole bar scene anymore. He also wasn't really feeling his position at Sandover anymore, but he didn't want to make any rash decisions just because things were changing in his life and he was uncomfortable about it.

So he had taken his well-earned holidays and was, to be honest, utterly bored out of his skull. He didn't know why; he had neglected hobbies, TV shows and books in his rush to get that next promotion. There should be plenty for him to do!

It was his mom who had suggested he try online dating because "all the young people did it". It was cute that his mom still considered him part of the young crowd, but he wasn't sure it was a great idea. So he put it off, visited Sam and Jess and spent a weekend sweating his balls off during a LARP campaign as Spears, trusty sword-wielding handmaiden to the Queen of Moondor. (One day Dean would actually come up with his own character, but he was too used to playing the role Charlie had jokingly assigned him when she had first dragged him with her.)

But when he got back to his empty apartment, he felt such an odd sense of wrongness, of not being where he was supposed to be, that he caved in and made himself a profile.

He doubted it would help at all, since hooking up with someone would surely not fix his dissatisfaction. But Dean was on vacation and it would be future Dean's problem to deal with the underlying issues.

So he downloaded the app and spent the next hour trying to come up with a good profile and picture. He had a feeling he was putting way too much effort into it and put it away again, thinking maybe he should just book a beach vacation after all or adopt a cat.  He eventually ended up ordering new swim wear and some outfits he'd probably banish to the very back of his closet the moment they arrived.

And then he sat down to watch some Dr. Sexy reruns, definitely not thinking about how pathetically lonely he felt.

He woke up to a couple of notifications on his phone, feeling somewhat uncomfortable after falling asleep on his couch, and while he had coffee to get his mind back online, he remembered the app. He opened it up and found that his inbox looked worse than his inbox at work on a Monday morning. He clicked through the messages, feeling a bit detached, despite the explicit images that were attached to some chats. Dean's dick stayed dormant and he nibbled on toast while he scrolled through them.

When he had sent replies to some people, he scrolled through some accounts that had been suggested to him according to his settings.

He was almost done with his breakfast, when he saw one that caught his eye.

Cas (om), 44)
I'm looking for an alpha who matches my swimsuit.

The profile pic was the upper body of a man wearing what looked like a sunflower swimsuit. Dean couldn't see the guy's face, but from what he could see the guy was pretty well-built for an omega. There were some other pics, one of the swimsuit – bikini actually – draped over suitcase and another one of the omega in the bikini, a big hat obscuring his face. But wow, he did have an amazing body. Also, this reminded Dean that he too had ordered stuff for a beach vacation that matched this pretty well. It seemed… well, not fate, but it was clearly some kind of sign that he should at least send the guy a message.

After the 5th knot pic, Claire had tasked Jack with going through the messages Cas' dating profile received. They had so far been able to keep their little project a secret both from Cas and Claire's parents. It wasn't like Claire and Jack spending hours staring at their phones was something they couldn't explain away and neither Jimmy nor Amelia had asked.

"I swear, if you ever send someone an unsolicited dick pic, I'll disinherit you," Claire grumbled, bringing up some lemonade and mango slices to the "matchmaker central" (Claire's bedroom). Jack seemed focused on his task, clicking and swiping.

"I don't know why alphas do that. It's very fascinating and embarrassing to some degree…," Jack said, then he lifted his head to look at Claire. "Is this why you're not attracted to men?" Claire laughed at that.

"You're the only alpha I tolerate," Claire said, blowing Jack a kiss. As expected Jack beamed at her, very pleased with the (arguably underwhelming) compliment.

"I don't know many omegas, but you're clearly my favorite next to dad," he answered which Claire commented with an exaggerated "awwww!". Claire let Jack scroll some more while she texted Kaia.

"Oh, I just got a new message," Jack said, "well, dad did."

"Another dick pic?" Claire asked, not looking up from her phone yet.

"No, look," he insisted and Claire abandoned her chatting to go check out what Jack wanted to show her.

"Dean, male alpha, 39 years old," Claire read the tiny blurb. "Well, his profile pic does look okay. He's pretty hot and he's got a nice car."

"He looks like a movie star," Jack insisted. "Look what he wrote." Jack opened the inbox and clicked on Dean's icon.

"Hey Cas. Love the bikini. I just bought this a couple of days ago. What do you think?"

Claire read out loud and then frowned, but before she could ask Jack about it, he clicked open a picture, grinning at her while it loaded.

It wasn't a dick pic. It was Dean standing in front of a mirror clearly taking a selfie. He wore a robe, but it was open enough that they could see his bright yellow speedos with sunflower print.

"Oh my god, if that guy's for real then we have to answer! What do you think? Is he your dad's type?" Claire asked, feeling super exited.

"Uh, I don't know… I don't know if dad has a type…" Jack frowned. "Father is tall, has blue eyes, blond hair… But I'm not sure if that constitutes a type."

"Dad!!" Claire shouted, startling Jack. There was no sound for a moment but then Jimmy came into the room.

"What's wrong?" he asked, looking concerned but Claire held out the phone to him.

"Is this Cas' type?" she asked. Jimmy relaxed, then he heaved a sigh and approached enough to take the phone from her.

"Claire? What is this?" he asked instead of answering.

"We made a dating profile for dad," Jack said, "we were looking for a man to match his swimsuit since father was so negative about it. And I think we found the right one. We just don't know if he's dad's type." Jimmy stared at the kids for a long moment and Claire could see that he was warring with himself. Eventually he snorted and looked back down at the phone. Claire knew they were off the hook.

"Yeah, that's definitely Cas' type. This guy is everyone's type," Jimmy said and handed the phone back.

"I thought you're straight," Claire said with a laugh.

"I have eyes," Jimmy said. "Anyway. I hope you two know that Cas might get upset over this, so be careful." With that warning, Jimmy darted one last look at the screen, then he shook his head and left the room. When Claire turned back to Jack, he grabbed the phone out of her hands and started typing.

"What are you doing?"

"Sending Dean emojis and then I'm calling dad to pick me up so he can take over," Jack declared which Claire considered a good plan. And if this blew up in their faces, at least Jack could warn her about the epic grounding she'd receive.

Chapter Text

Castiel loved his son, he really did. But right now he was thinking about grounding him until he left for college.

"You can't do things like this, Jack. This can get you into very serious trouble," he told him sternly but Jack clearly wasn't impressed or feeling guilty at all.

"We never showed your face and there is no private information on you available," Jack insisted and he sounded almost impatient. "You should at least look at this alpha before you dismiss the idea. He seems nice." Cas shook his head but his son pushed the mobile phone into his chest, so he had to take it before it could fall and break. Castiel shot his son a disgruntled look, but Jack merely tilted his head impatiently.

"This isn't over yet, Jack. I'm still disappointed in you," he told him but Jack was unaffected, moving right up to him and told him where to click to open the app. Cas caught a glimpse of a very short chat exchange with this man called Dean but then Jack was already tapping an image.

"This better not be a picture of his genitals," Cas warned, dismayed.

"Oh no, Dean didn't send anything improper," Jack assured him. "Though I have now learnt that many alphas on this platform think that sending pictures of their erect penises was the appropriate conversation starter."

"Oh god," Cas muttered, mind already rushing to figure out where his parenting had gone wrong, but then the pic loaded and Cas had to swallow. This Dean was… attractive. Very attractive. And he wore sunflower speedos.

"Why is he…"

"We wrote in your profile that you were looking for an alpha to match your swimsuit," Jack answered promptly. "You know, because you can't date anyone who doesn't agree that you look great in it," he explained and Cas was momentarily speechless. More than that; he was… touched.

"I'm still angry but you're very sweet," Cas said, pulling his son close so he could kiss his hair. "But now go to the kitchen, you're on pizza duty. And we'll have to talk about respecting people's boundaries later."

"Okay! Let me know how it goes," Jack agreed with a smile, then he dashed off. Cas walked over to the little living room space of the motel room they rented for the time being. Cas felt he was too old to move from friend's couch to friend's couch with his grown son in tow. But truth to be told, he also didn't feel entirely comfortable here. He sat down on the lumpy sofa and read through the short conversation Dean had exchanged with Claire and Jack. He looked at the profile they made for him and the pics they had chosen. He didn't really find fault with it because, as Jack had promised, his face wasn't visible and there was no personal information about him listed anywhere. But the unease and slight embarrassment to see pictures of himself on a dating app was still there. Next he clicked on this mysterious speedo wearing man's profile.

Dean, 39

Dayton, OH

I'm open for something new.

Typical alpha from the Midwest with a muscle car and competitive job by day.

Pie loving nerd by night.

Well, his profile sounded alright and the selfies Dean had sent in the chat looked pretty nice. Could he just… reply? Or did he have to explain that this was all a big misunderstanding and that he wasn't interested? But… was he really not interested? He looked at Dean's face again. Ah, screw it. It couldn't hurt.

"I'm pleased to see that you have good taste in swim wear," he typed, then sent the message off before he could second guess it. Even though it had been almost an hour since Jack or Claire had sent emojis Dean answered promptly.

"Thanks! 😉 It was an impulse buy but I can't say I regret it now even though I feel half my ass is showing. Can I ask what led to your profile? It's pretty specific." Cas hesitated for a moment, thinking how to best summarize it, the impulse to tell Dean that this was just the scheming of two teenagers was slipping to the back of his head.

"I'm taking my first vacation alone in about 20 years and my niece insisted I buy something nice. My ex-partner said he wouldn't allow me to go to the beach dressed like that. I dropped the partner, kept the swimsuit," Cas typed. It was a pretty censored version of events but he didn't think he could unload his entire life story on a man he had exchanged one sentence with so far.

"Damn. His loss. It looks great on you. 😍"

"😘" Cas had no idea how to flirt via text or if he even was flirting, but sending that emoji seemed like a relatively safe course of action. He was thinking about how he could best let Dean know how handsome he was (not that this would be news to Dean) when Dean sent him another message.

"Any chance to see your face too?" he texted, then he sent him a selfie, doing a thumbs up. Oh… this man was truly beautiful. He even had freckles! Cas quickly tried to put his hair into order, before he opened the phone camera and took a selfie, making a peace sign into the camera. It wasn't a particularly good image but it was how he usually looked so it would have to do. He sent it to Dean, dreading the reply. He wasn't particularly vain and despite what Luke sometimes had said about his lack of beauty, he knew that Luke was just a manipulative donkey and he looked just fine.

"Oh shit. You're hot," Dean typed back. "Your ex must be an idiot." Cas had to laugh at that, relief flooding him. He didn't know why it mattered that Dean approved.

"You have no idea," he muttered, then he typed it because, well, it was true.

By the time Jack served pizza, Cas had forgotten to be upset at his son for doing this behind is back.

"You seem to be having fun," Jack said. "I hope Dean's nice."

"Yes, me too," Cas said. Even if nothing came out of it, at least he enjoyed himself right now.

Texting with Dean was a great pleasure and an ideal distraction when he was sitting alone in his motel room. Cas didn't have a lot of free time next to work, chores and parenting, but what free time he did have he liked to spend on his phone texting and eventually, after some prompting, also calling Dean. Since they had met on a dating platform, Cas felt no shame that the question of actually meeting came up pretty quickly. Dean had offered to make the drive from Ohio to Illinois ("I travel for business all the time, I'd be happy to travel for fun" had been Dean's argument) but Cas felt embarrassed about living in a motel. And Cas couldn't justify spending 10 hours driving with all the work he still had to put in at his job before his well-earned holidays. And he was uneasy leaving Jack alone or dropping him off with family just to meet a man.

"Well, you were looking for an alpha to match your swimsuit," Dean told him when they were on the phone together, three days before Cas would be departing for his vacation. He had Dean on speaker phone, since he was alone at the moment, Jack at the cinema with his friends.

"Uh, yes," Cas answered distractedly, sorting through his clothing that he wanted to put in his suitcase.

"You're going on a beach holiday, I was thinking about going on a beach holiday," Dean answered, "you see where I'm going with this, Cas?" Castiel stopped what he was doing, staring at the phone incredulously. Of course, Dean couldn't see him.

"You want to meet me there? So spontaneously?" Cas asked.

"Uh, sure, why not? I can't think of anything better to do than meet a hot dude at a beach resort," Dean said, chuckling. "And if we don't like each other-" Castiel made a disgruntled noise at that, which had Dean laughing more. "IF, Cas. Then I can still enjoy the beach on my own. Right?"

"I guess…?" Castiel answered tentatively, then he sat down on the bed, next to the mobile phone, as if he was somehow sitting down next to Dean. "But we're still strangers, isn't that weird?"

"Not particularly? I can tell you all about myself in 30 seconds if that makes you feel better," Dean told him.

"I doubt that," Cas answered with a snort, but he was intrigued.

"I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. My parents still live there, my younger brother lives in California with his girlfriend. I went to college to study literature and somehow ended up getting a Master in business administration instead. I'm senior VP of marketing and sales at Sandover Bridge and Iron. I recently ended a long-term relationship. I think I hate my job and might be having a midlife crisis, hence the online shopping and the dating app. I was never married and don't have kids, but I'm not averse. Ah, I also drive a sensible Prius to work, but the love of my life is my classic '67 Chevrolet Impala. That's about it. Was that 30 seconds?"

"I'm not sure. I'm still processing how you got from literature to business, that seems like an unfortunate twist in your fate," Cas joked. Having studying business administration as well, Cas knew what he was talking about after all.

"Haha, very funny. It's not my passion but at least I have enough money to afford a spontaneous trip to the Caribbean," Dean told him.

"Actually, I'm going to Florida," Cas corrected and Dean groaned at him. "Are you having second thoughts?"

"Maybe? Give me your short version of who you are, so I can make up my mind if it's worth going to Florida for you."

"Florida is a perfectly sensible vacation spot. I'm making do on a more modest salary than you," Cas told him, still amused. "When I got pregnant my husband-"

"Ex-husband," Dean interjected and Cas snorted. "Just getting your facts straight for you, Mr. 'I probably defaulted to Florida because I took my kid to Disneyland once'," Dean shot back. Well, he wasn't wrong.

"Okay, my ex didn't want me to work anymore when I got pregnant. And to be honest, I didn't mind that much at first. Once Jack hit puberty my ex decided that our alpha son would be better off without being coddled by an omega parent all the time."

"What a dick."

"Yes. I returned to work when he was about 14. I'm an accountant, I also hate my job, I'm finally divorcing my cheating husband over him telling me he won't let me go to the beach dressed like a whore." Dean sucked in air at that, clearly disturbed. "So now I'm divorced, don't have a house anymore, am living in a motel and am very sad about my only child soon leaving me for college."

"You really need a vacation, dude," Dean said empathically and Cas chuckled softly. "And a hug. So just tell me when and where and I'll be there."

"You don't mind?" Castiel asked, feeling somewhat embarrassed now after he had given Dean the run-down of his current situation.

"Florida? Nah, I'll live." Cas rolled his eyes.

"About me being a divorced father to an adult son, who is probably going to drink too much so I have an excuse to cry on the beach."

"Sounds good to me. I'll have plenty of shit to shed some manly tears over. We can be miserable together. Ideally, we'll be soothing our individual misery," Dean assured him. "Alright? I'm serious, Cas." Castiel smiled warmly at the phone.

"I guess you know how to sell me an idea," he joked and Dean huffed into the phone. "Alright, Dean. I'll send you a text with all the relevant info, so your assistant can book your flight." Dean groaned.

"Come on, dude. I don't need an assistant to book a flight," he assured him. "Do I also need a room or are you going to invite me into your hotel room? I'd love a bit of 'oh no, there is only one bed' action."

"I thought that was obvious," Cas answered, feeling a bit daring. As hoped, Dean laughed.

"Great. Then I'll be counting the days." Cas was too.

Dean found that he was actually nervous about the upcoming beach holiday with Cas. While he had informed his friends and family that he would be going to Florida for two weeks, he hadn't told people what exactly he was going to do there. It wasn't that he was embarrassed to fly somewhere just to meet a man he had been talking to for less than two weeks. But he didn't want them to make a big deal out of it, when Dean was already nervous. So he kept it to himself. He supposed they would find out eventually if he and Cas hit it off.

He had talked to him some more over the last couple of days, even video chatted with him. Jack had been around then, insisting to say hi too. The kid was the spitting image of his dad, just with lighter hair and he was cheerful and easy-going in a way Dean hadn't expected of an 18-year-old. Admittedly, Dean didn't know a lot about kids that age. But the way Cas and Jack interacted did unlock an unsettling kind of longing for family inside him.

And it was totally weird to hope for an omega he had barely met to fill that hole inside of him, right? So yes, Dean was nervous. He had packed lube and condoms because the sexually charged flirting was pretty obvious between them. And he had packed his speedos, as well as some other not alpha typical clothing, like a short kimono style cotton gown to wear at the beach. He had no idea how he had ended up on that unusual alpha fashion page (okay, okay, he knew. He had been looking for new LARPing stuff), but since it won him a date with Cas, he shouldn't complain. Cas' ex was the kind of douche that hadn't supported Cas exploring and he wanted to make sure that he let Cas know that he wasn't like that.

Either way, he was sweating when he got out of the taxi and stepped into the resort Cas had booked. It looked like any typical somewhat affordable hotel. Something Dean might not have booked now that he had the luxury of not worrying about money. But Cas had spent a lot of his money on the divorce and moving out of their family home, so he knew that he had limitations.

He went to the reception to find out what room they were in. He received a key card from the smiling receptionist and the info that Mr. Novak had already checked in. Dean was a bundle of nerves when he got upstairs. He fumbled with the key card a bit, hanging out in front of the door. But eventually he opened the door and stepped into the room.

"Cas?" he called into the room. He found himself in a entrance area that had a wardrobe, then an ajar door that probably led to a bathroom. The corridor opened up in a not too big but bright room. There was the usual counter space with the mini bar in it, then a desk and chair pushed to the wall with the TV mounted on top. There was an armchair in the corner. The wall opposite Dean was all windows, showing out towards the beach. And then there was the bed pushed to the wall, Cas currently standing next to the open suitcase on one side. Seeing Cas live, in full color and scent, left him speechless.

Cas looked at him, his eyes wide, but quickly a bright, gummy smile showed up on his face, which only made the giddy butterfly feeling in Dean's stomach worse.

"Dean! It's so good to see you," Cas said.

"Wow, likewise," Dean muttered, letting go of his suitcase. Cas didn't hesitate to walk around the bed, right into Dean's personal space to wrap his arms around him. Dean instinctively did the same, pulling Cas close and scenting him. "Damn." He felt the tip of Cas' nose brush his neck too, hearing the soft but deep inhale that had Cas relax in his arms. Eventually he let go and Cas grinned up at him. Dean was pretty sure he must have looked like a fool; he was smiling so much his cheeks hurt.

"I think that's a match," Dean said and Castiel nodded enthusiastically. They stared at each other for a while longer, Dean was pretty sure their sexual tension growing every second. "Well, uh… I'm gonna…" he started.

Damn it Dean, he told himself. Get a grip, you know how to do this. Sure it's been a while, but not that long for him to be so nervous about it!

Cas nodded however and after Dean took a deep breath, he leant down to kiss him. Castiel sighed against his lips and brought up his arms to wrap them around Dean's neck. Dean kissed him once again, then he trailed kissed down his neck, breathing in his pleasant, fresh scent.

"Dean…" Cas' rough voice spurred Dean on to pay particular attention to his neck, letting his teeth graze over the skin, which earned him a pleasant shiver from Cas. Dean had instantly seen that Cas' neck didn't show any scars of a mating bite, which had excited some primal, stupid part of his brain.

Maybe it was tacky to have sex within 5 minutes of seeing each other in person for the first time, but the way Cas' hands were roaming Dean's body, fingers snaking under his shirt, gave Dean cause to believe that they were on the same page.

But once Dean had his hands on Cas' shorts-clad ass, a phone started ringing, vibrating right under Dean's palm.

"No," Cas grumbled and continued kissing Dean until Dean managed to pull the phone free. With reluctance Dean pulled back, licking his lips, then he looked at the phone.

"It's your kid," Dean said, seeing a grinning Jack holding up a lightsaber on the screen. Castiel heaved a sigh, but he did take a step back from Dean to take the phone.


"Hi dad!" Jack called, loud enough to be heard even though Cas hadn’t switched on the speaker. "Has Dean already arrived?" Castiel sent Dean a look and Dean had to laugh.

"Yes, he just got here," Cas answered, putting the phone down, speaker switched on.

"Hey Jack," Dean called with a grin.

"Hello! Dad, is it okay if I go camping with Claire? Jimmy said I had to ask you first."

"Aren't you at your father's place?" Cas asked and Dean could see the frown form. "I thought he was taking you fishing."

"He's going to Vegas with uncle Gabe and since I didn't want to come he dropped me off at Jimmy and Amelia's place," Jack answered easily and it didn't sound like the kid was upset. Castiel's frown only deepened.

"In that case, of course you can join Claire. Just make sure you are properly equipped. I suppose your father gave you his credit card?"


"Well, use it." Dean had to snort at that, shaking his head in amusement.

"Sure! Will you go to the beach with Dean today?" Jack asked. Castiel tilted his head and looked up at Dean.

"Yeah, the weather looks great, we'll be heading there soon," Dean answered.

"Cool! Okay, I'll talk to you later," Jack promised, then he said his good-byes and hung up. Castiel tossed the phone on the nightstand and groaned.

"Hey, no being pissed at the ex. You're here to relax," Dean told him. Castiel let himself drop on the bed almost dramatically.

"I can just imagine Luke and Gabriel dragging Jack to a night club to 'let his alpha out' or whatever alpha initiation ritual they might come up with," he grumbled. Dean sat down on the bed too. "Jack's far more interested in Star Wars than in dating."

"Can't fault him there, dating can be stressful," Dean said wisely. "I was a nervous wreck until I walked through the door and saw you."

"That's very sweet," Cas said with a low chuckle. Dean playfully swatted at his hips. "I didn't think I'd ever date again. Sure, I knew my marriage had failed but I thought I'd just… endure? Or divorce and never be with anyone again… If it weren't for Jack and my niece, Claire, I wouldn't even have a dating profile." At that he frowned. "Well, I closed it after meeting you, so technically I don't have a dating profile."

"Aw, look who's being sweet now," Dean teased with a wide grin. Castiel however studied Dean, his expression intense, and in the next moment Dean found himself with Cas sitting in his lap.

"Or maybe I just took a chance," he said. Dean grabbed Cas' waist, grinning up at him.

"Either way, it was a good choice," Dean decided.

Cas was very much aware that he came here to lie on a beach towel and enjoy the sun. Having sex with a handsome alpha was however so much more enticing to him. After 20 years of being married to Luke and being used to his pretty one-sided affections, Dean was… well… mind blowing was one word for it.

"Come on now, I wasn't that good," Dean said with a laugh when Cas remained in bed, feeling boneless and sated.

"Yes, you were," Cas assured him contently, turning around to watch Dean rummage around his suitcase, still naked from his shower. Dean raised his head and winked at him.

"You're right, I was." Castiel chuckled, then he finally forced himself to sit back up. "But we should still go to the beach or what will you tell your kid if he calls and you're still sitting around in bed?" Cas admitted that this was a good argument. He watched Dean put on his sunflower speedos before Cas turned to his suitcase and fished out a towel and his bikini. He put his hand on it, brushing over the fabric.

"What's the matter?" Dean asked when he noticed Cas stalling. "You'll look hot. Don't overthink it too much." Cas heaved a sigh, but he did put it on. When he turned towards Dean, he was surprised to find him tying something that looked like a short robe around him. "See? I'll be daring too. I don't usually wear stuff like this." He fastened the tie in a knot in the front, then he lifted his arms, presenting himself. Cas could tell that he was somewhat uneasy, by the way his shoulders were slightly hunched and the tint to his cheeks.

"I like it," Cas admitted and Dean relaxed, an easy smile returning to his face. "I don't think I have anything that nice…" Cas pulled out a long white cotton shirt with a thin decorative belt at the waist. It was the only somewhat feminine thing he owned. Next to his wide sunhat and the bikini. Dean showed him an approving grin, then they put on their sandals, hats and sunglasses. Dean came prepared with a beach bag into which he stuffed Cas' towel and e-reader, then they left the hotel room.

The walk to the beach was relatively short and the moment Dean took Cas' hand in his, all worries about what people might think about him evaporated. He wasn't here to worry about what others thought; he was here to enjoy himself.

The beach was pretty packed, but Dean and Cas still found a nice space to lay down their towels. They stripped down to their swim wear, slathered themselves in sunscreen and then they lay down on their towels, under their parasol and relaxed with their books. Cas was surprised to find Dean reading what seemed to be a YA novel.

"They're fun," Dean insisted and took a peek at Cas' e-reader even though he couldn't tell what Cas was reading just by that. "Certainly, more fun than whatever non-fiction brick you're reading."

"Sure," Castiel agreed easily, happily turning the page. Dean did too. Castiel found it easy to let his mind come to rest and to simply ignore what awaited him once he returned to Pontiac.

"Dude, I have to cool down," Dean said after maybe an hour. Cas watched him put away his book, then he took off his hat and sunglasses, squinting towards the sparkling sea. "Do you want to come?" Cas hesitated, suddenly missing his unassuming black trunks, but eventually he put the e-reader down. Dean grinned at him and held out his hand, helping Cas get up from the towel. With a twinkle in his eyes, Dean raced off without another word, making a spectacle out of himself as his feet hit the cold water. He shrieked and then eventually just threw himself into the water. Cas had to laugh when Dean got back up, wet from head to toe, wiping his eyes and grinning. He waved his arms.

"Come on, sunshine!" he shouted, uncaring who could hear him. But nobody really seemed to point and stare, so fine. Cas got up as well, but he approached the water with a bit more caution, but then Dean held out his hands for him, in all his wet glory, so Cas ignored the initial shock of the cold water and hurried up until he could wrap his arms around Dean.

"You look so hot in your swimsuit," Dean whispered in his ear and the shiver that went down Cas' spine was definitely not from the water.

"Actually, I'm a bit cold," Cas tried to joke. Dean laughed at him, then he hoisted him up and threw him into the water.

Cas hadn't enjoyed himself like this in years. Dean was very easy to spend time with, even outside of lying on the beach and having sex. Cas had never really considered himself a person who was particularly interested in sex, but it turned out he did enjoy having sex and he did fantasize about having sex when he wasn't having it. At least when it got to Dean, who clearly enjoyed sex a lot and had no qualms about admitting it. But he also said no such thing like this was in his nature as an alpha and he definitely didn't spend half his time ogling other people while at the beach with Cas.

"Cas, I think you just had the misfortune of a shitty dick as a husband," Dean told him, when he was rubbing a towel over Cas' hair after their shower back at the hotel. "There are plenty of people who use the designation card to explain away bad habits."

"Like saying he is compelled to cheat on me because he's an alpha?" Cas asked with a snort. Dean stopped rubbing his hair, pushing the towel away so that Cas had a clear sight of Dean's frown.

"What an ass," Dean said, but Cas shrugged at that. "Well, you have me now."

"Do I?" Cas asked, surprised by the easy admission. Dean walked around him, sitting in the armchair opposite him.

"If you want to?" Dean asked and even though he seemed confident enough, Cas could spot his insecurity.

"I'm pretty sure I do," Cas told him and Dean relaxed instantly. "But do you want to?" Dean lifted his eyebrow. "I've got a lot of construction sites in my life right now. And I know you could probably swoop in and fix half of them, but I'm not sure if I can let you." Dean's expression softened.

"I can help you, the way a partner helps. If you don't want me to throw money at you and instead just provide support while you do your thing, I can do that," Dean said. "I'm ready for some big changes, but I'm also apprehensive about rushing into things. Even though I'm sure I want all those big changes with you." Castiel smiled at him, lifting his hand to caress Dean's cheek.

"Then we'll make it up as we go? Like any other couple," Cas suggested and Dean happily agreed.

Cas was glad that he'd been talked into a vacation by his friends and that it didn't turn out how he expected it. The vision of him crying while sipping a drink with a colorful umbrella had faded into the background, even though not many of the reasons to cry had disappeared in the last weeks. He would return to his motel room once the holiday was over and soon Jack would leave. He had signed a lease for a small two-bedroom apartment but he did miss his house and his garden, even Luke's stupid roses. He didn't miss Luke of course, but he missed having a family and a home.

What he had however, to distract him from his sadness, was Dean. But as their vacation neared its end, some of the issues he had pushed away from himself, were suddenly crowding closer.

"What are you thinking of?" Dean wondered, when they were sitting on the balcony at night, enjoying some beers as they watched the sea in the distance.

"Life after this," Cas said and when Dean only looked puzzled, Cas added: "Recently divorced omega in his forties who doesn't like his job, who will have to move to a mostly empty apartment because my only son is leaving for college. And I will be alone for the first time in 20 years." Castiel lifted his beer at that, in a mocking salute to the beach and then he drained the rest.

"Well, you've got a boyfriend in another state," Dean told him which Castiel supposed was true. "Maybe us trying to figure out our long-distance relationship will keep you a bit busy at least." Cas smiled at him, feeling grateful to have found such a wonderful man.

"Yes…," he agreed. "What about you though? Will you be okay going back to your job?" Dean seemed surprised by the question, but he soon shrugged.

"I guess? It's not like I want to throw it all away just because I have a bit of a crisis," Dean said, keeping his voice easy-going, but the words didn't sound particularly light-hearted to Cas. "I've been at Sandover for 15 years now, working myself up the corporate ladder and it's not… it's not bad. It's a good company, I have a good team under me, it's just… well, at one point you wonder if this is where you really want to be for the next 20 years. I worked hard to get to my position. Basically working 7 days a week for the last 15 years… But the mere thought of going on like this until I'm Chief of Marketing and Sales when I'm 50? I don't know, Cas… No space for relationships, no space for family… Just the corporate pack." Cas wrinkled his nose.

"I hate that term. Corporate pack," he said with distaste which made Dean snort a laugh. "What do you want to do, Dean?"

"I don't know… I do like my work, just… not right now," he admitted. "Not at the pace I've been doing it."

"Anyone'd get burned out eventually," Castiel answered. Dean merely shrugged.

"Alphas don't. We're meant to thrive on this competition and constant strive to dominate others," he said with a sneer. That definitely was true for Luke, he had relished in the daily battles and often took his adrenaline of having put someone in their place back into their bedroom (or increasingly into an expensive hotel room with another escort). It had been exciting once upon a time, but it had soon lost its glamor. Cas studied Dean.

"You don't?"

"Kind of? But I need a bit more balance…," Dean admitted. "And with my family and friends out of state, no time for hobbies and relationships usually ending because I've got no time? I just have no balance."

"Do you think this is something we have to worry about too? You not having time?" Castiel wondered, though he wasn't particularly worried about it. He only had weekends off as well after all. Dean seemed unsure, rolling his beer bottle between his palms.

"I'd like to say no. I still work 5 days a week of course and sometimes I'm away on business trips, but I don't want to bring work back anymore to do once I get home at 10 PM or go to the office on Saturdays and Sundays. It's just…" Dean heaved a sigh. "Yeah. I'd like to just drive to Kansas to my parents or drive to Illinois to see you. Have time for friends and hobbies…" Castiel smiled at Dean, reaching out to put his hand on his. Dean's fidgeting with the beer bottle stopped and he allowed Cas to push his fingers between Dean's to hold his hand.

"I'd like that. I'd like that a lot," Cas told him.

"Great. Then we'll do that. I still have a week off after this, so I'd be happy to help you move as well if you need the help and want to be… less alone" Castiel smiled at Dean, then he scooted a bit closer so that he could put his head on Dean's shoulder.

"You're a bit of a wonder, Dean Winchester," Castiel admitted, which made Dean chuckle lightly.

"As are you, Cas Novak."

Chapter Text

Dean and Cas reluctantly parted ways at the airport in Florida, both going back to their homes (or motel in Cas' case), but with firm plans to meet again in three days to help Cas with the move. Even when they had to go to their individual gates, Cas had no time to feel strangely sad and empty for more than five minutes because Dean called him right away. He claimed it was because he was terrified of flying (which Cas found hard to believe considering Dean travelled to frequently and he hadn't seemed nervous before) and therefore needed Cas to distract him.

And then there was the flight and then he was back home in Illinois. He shot a quick message to Dean, letting him know that he had safely arrived. He got his luggage and was mentally going through a list of all the things he had to do, but before the harsh reality could chase away his holiday buzz, he got startled by someone loudly calling his name. He had been so absorbed in thoughts he hadn't even seen his family among the people waiting for their loved ones to return. He hadn't arranged for anyone to come pick him up, so he was surprised to find Jack, Anna, Claire, Jimmy and Amelia waiting for him. They even had a gigantic sign welcoming him home as if he'd been gone for 10 years. But Castiel was far too touched to find it silly.

"Welcome home, dad!" Jack said, tossing the sign to Claire (who grunted in protest) before he wrapped Cas in a hug. Cas allowed himself to breathe in the familiar scent of his kid, glad to have him back in his arms. Call him sentimental, but he almost felt like the hug was over too soon when Jack drew back. He looked at his grinning son, drinking in his familiar sight. It had only been two weeks and it had been alright when he had been so distracted by Dean, but now he was glad that he was back.

"You're tanned!" Jack said after a while, unaware of Cas' silly emotional moment, then he held out his own arm to compare it to Cas'. "I'm as well, a bit! Look!" Castiel laughed and wiped his eyes.

"Yes, you are," he said fondly, receiving a wide, beaming grin in return.

"Now we get to say hi too," Claire announced and jokingly pushed Jack aside to hug Cas. The others followed as well, making quite a spectacle of welcoming him home and telling him how good he looked.

"And how was it with… Dean?" Amelia asked when they were all bundled in a rented minivan and driving back. "You always seemed pretty happy when you called."

"I was. Dean was a wonderful beach companion," he told her with a smile. "He'll come help me move in a couple of days."

"Yeah? You're moving pretty fast," Jimmy said cautiously. Cas was sure Jimmy had more to say on the subject, but not now in the car, when the kids were in the back.

"After 20 years with Luke, I'm happy to have an adoring alpha in my life," Castiel told him, hoping to convey that things were really okay.

"What about me?" Jack asked form the back, leaning forwards to put his head on the backrest next to Cas.

"You'll always be my favorite alpha," Cas assured him, reaching back to ruffle his hair. Jack smiled at that, appeased. They chatted easily about what Cas did, how the weather was, how the hotel was, until Cas realized that they weren't going in the direction of his motel.

"Come on, you're of course staying with me for the next couple of days. No point in going back to the motel," Anna announced cheerfully. Cas was taken aback but certainly grateful. "We already got your furniture and the remaining stuff from Luke's."

"I helped!" Jack announced, which Anna answered with a chuckle.

"Yes, Jack made sure to distract Old Nick so we could steal some of your stuff," Claire said. Cas of course appreciated the campaign and that he didn't have to go back to the house himself. Not that he had anticipated any issues; he actually didn't quarrel with Luke about their possessions. There wasn't a lot that Cas wanted or that had truly belonged to him. The little he did want, like photo albums, Luke handed over, seeing as he wasn't the sentimental type.

"Everything's already packed and loaded into a rented van. All you have to do is drive to the apartment from my place. It'll be easy," Anna eventually added.

"And like this you can tell us everything about how it was like to go to the beach without your trusty black trunks," Claire teased. Castiel rolled his eyes but it was mostly for show, since he was happy to be around his family and for them to be so supportive and loving.

Cas was treated to a big dinner and then he was ordered to load his pictures on his laptop and present a slideshow with commentary. He had taken a lot of pictures of the beach, of his drinks and of his food ("typical Cas!" Claire commented) but he also had pics of Dean. Lots of them actually. Of him in the water, sitting on the balcony with a towel on his head and making funny faces at the camera while eating fruit salat, of him texting on the bed or sleeping on the beach. There were also selfies of them together and Castiel felt warm again just looking at them. He couldn't wait to see Dean again and thought to send him a quick text that just read: "I miss you" followed by a heart emoji.

Dean was quick to answer: "I miss you too. See you on Wednesday."

"Wow, okay, so Dean's hot," Anna commented when Claire and Jack had retreated to the porch to chat. "And you really looked like you had fun."

"I did," Cas said. "I worried about going on a two-week long vacation with a guy I barely knew. But he's really great."

"And you're sure that you're not just jumping at the first guy because you don't want to be alone after being married for so long?" Jimmy asked. Amelia elbowed her husband softy, her expression a frown that she easily hid when Cas looked her way. "Ouch. Come on Ames. I'm his brother, I've got to worry." Cas didn't particularly mind Jimmy's question as he had asked himself the same thing.

"Yes and no?" Castiel answered. "I had no intention of meeting somebody else, but Dean was pleasant to talk to from the start. We're both in similar situations where we either are, or feel like we are, at a turning point in our lives… So yes, I'm jumping at the first guy, but only because the first guy seems to be exactly what I need now."

"And you don't think he's too good to be true?" Amelia suggested and a second later Jimmy had his phone out.

"Let's just google the guy, see if he's really who he says he is! Maybe he's really just a weirdo who preys on recently single people."

"What for?" Castiel asked, feeling exasperated. "I don't have any assets for him to steal."

"I think that's him?" Amelia said, pointing at the phone. "Dean Winchester, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Sandover Bridge and Iron." Anna got up from her chair to also catch a glimpse of Dean's professional picture.

"Oh wow. He's hot in speedos and he's hot in a suit. Quite a catch," she said, then grinned at Cas. "Well done."

"Yes, we were very lucky to be brought together," Cas said with a snort. "And as you might be able to tell from his job, he has a lot of money. There's no need for him to pretend anything."

"That's really great, Cas," Amelia said, putting her arm around Jimmy. "Right, Jimmy?"

"Hm," he said, still squinting. "Yeah alright. I guess he's legit." Castiel laughed at that, shaking his head. "And you'll see each other again for the move?" Cas nodded. "He didn't say anything about moving in together, right?"

"That's too fast. I told him I don't want him to swoop in and fix all my issues for me. He agreed to that but said he'd like to support me like any partner does."

"He's got my stamp of approval," Anna announced, lifting her wine glass. Amelia did the same and reluctantly Jimmy did too. "Novak-Milton stamp of approval!" Castiel rolled his eyes fondly, but he also lifted his glass.

"Thanks," he said with a smile.

Dean returned to his apartment and felt the emptiness of it like a physical weight on his chest. After the joy it had been to spend two weeks with Cas, it was even more obvious how Dean's life really missed an integral part. A part that Cas seemed to be able to fill so effortlessly. He had thought to just go home, enjoy his last week off, and see where this relationship went. To not make a big deal out of it, which included not telling anybody until some more time had passed. But it felt odd now to sit on such a secret.

Because Cas was a great match for him. Their compatibility as an alpha and an omega was unquestionable. And while that was no guarantee for a good relationship, they did seem to get along great as well. Dean never had any problem talking to Cas and being open with him had been easy in a way it had rarely been before. And there were also none of those uncomfortable silences with Cas. Cas was happy to talk, but he was also happy to just spend time with Dean, without requiring conversation. Dean couldn't remember the last time he could enjoy just being silent next to someone (well, someone who wasn't Sam). As an alpha he always felt that he had to do everything, to constantly impress, bring energy to a relationship, but with Cas it wasn't necessary. Cas allowed him to just be himself, even though Cas didn't know what a big deal it actually was for Dean to do non stereotypically alpha things. It wasn't that Dean was the kind of alpha that wanted to test the boundaries of his presentation and gender expression (and maybe even cross them), at least not too much. He just liked certain things that weren't traditionally alpha and so far Cas seemed to have no issue with that at all.

Dean didn't want to get ahead of himself and tell everyone he had found the love of his life, but Cas and Dean had agreed that they wanted to be partners. Officially. And that was a big deal.

Dean decided he had to actually tell people about that. More than that: he really wanted to. It just felt off not to tell everyone that he had found someone as amazing as Cas. But how could he go about that while still being somewhat cool about it? He didn't have Facebook so he couldn't just change his relationship status for the entire world to see and speculate about.

He took out his phone.

"Hey Cas," he typed, "is it okay if I send a pic of us together in my family chat? I want to tell everyone but I don't want to have to call everyone individually." Since Cas was usually not the fastest at typing back, Dean went to make himself a cup of coffee. Shortly after he sat down to check Netflix his phone pinged.

"As long as I'm not naked. 😉" Dean laughed to himself. Dean had taken some pics of them in bed, but no, he would keep those to himself. He knew exactly what he wanted to send. They had taken a typical beach selfie, with the sunset behind them, smiling at the camera with Cas resting his chin on Dean's shoulder, his smile wide and gummy. He was wearing his sunglasses on the top of his head and a t-shirt that sadly hid his gorgeous swimsuit. But it was still adorable. And he looked great too, as happy as he had felt in that moment. He sent it to Cas for approval and did get a thumbs up emoji sent back.

Dean opened the Winchester family chat and sent the picture with the capture "I never thought I'd say it, but I already miss Florida" and then he tossed the phone on his couch and went to take a shower and unpack. He heard the pings starting from the living room and he grinned to himself.

After he was done taking care of his laundry, he grabbed his phone and checked the messages. He scrolled up and was surprised that his dad was the first to answer.

Dad: "Florida's a pretty weird name for a dude." Dean rolled his eyes, then scrolled down.

Jess: "Omg?? What a cutie! Did you meet him there or have you been hiding him from us?"

Sam: "You look so happy! I'm going to print this out and put it on the fridge. 😉 "

Mom: "What's his name?! Where is he from? Omega, beta, alpha? I want to know everything! @John Haha!" Even though he hadn't really expected anything else from his family, Dean was relieved to get such positive reactions and before he answered he pulled up the chat with Cas.

"My family is already enamored. We all have great taste after all," he typed and Castiel sent him an emoji with floating hearts back. Now Dean had some typing to do.

"His name is Cas, he's 44. He's an omega and has a kid who just finished high school. I met Cas four weeks ago and we spontaneously decided to visit the beach together. It was amazing. He lives in Illinois and I'm driving up there on Wednesday to help him move."

Mom: "Oh! Illinois is close to us! If I promise a pie, will you drive down to Lawrence afterwards? You can tell us everything about him then!" Dean grinned, the unsettling feeling of loneliness fading away.

"Of course! You know me!" he typed back and then allowed himself to get lost in the conversation, glad that he had made the choice to tell them about Cas.

Dean was slightly nervous when he arrived at the address Cas had texted him. Anna Milton, a cousin apparently, lived in a nice neighborhood where all the houses looked pretty similar. But Dean could spot her house because there was a small van parked in front of it. Cas was on the sidewalk behind the van, his hands tucked into his shorts and sunglasses on. He noticed Dean and pulled his hands out of his pockets to wave and show where he could park. Dean followed his instructions, rolling down the window while Cas walked up to him. He leant down, pulling down his glassed, to peek inside the car.

"Hello Dean," he greeted and shot Dean one of his small smiles. Dean grinned. "Thanks for coming."

"Sure!" he said then Cas stepped aside and let Dean get out. Dean was a bit nervous for a moment, rubbing his hands on his pants indecisively, but then he pulled Cas into a hug, kissing his cheek. Cas returned the hug with a small, pleased sigh. Dean let him go again, unsure about how much PDA was appropriate outside of beach holidays. "So, I'm sure you're dying for the most important of introductions! Cas, baby. Baby, Cas." Dean gestured towards his car and Cas laughed, putting his hand on the hood.

"It's an honor," Cas said solemnly and Dean gave him a little shove, but there was no mistaking the bubble of warm, fuzzy feelings extending in Dean's chest.

"Cool car," a girl's voice said and Dean looked up to find the source. A young woman with blond, wavy hair was sitting on a wicker chair on the porch, phone in her hands. She lifted one hand, all cool and casual, almost bored. "Hey. I'm Claire." Ah, so this was the mastermind behind the matchmaking.

"Hi Claire, it's nice to meet you. Thanks for setting up Cas' dating profile," he said with a wink. Claire snorted in amusement. "Do you know anything about cars?"

"She got a Jeep she's very proud of," Cas told him seriously and Claire rolled her eyes.

"I know enough to judge a car, especially considering what kind of competition there is around. Have you ever seen Cas' car? It's an atrocity. Possibly even a deal breaker," she warned with a smug smile and when Dean looked at Cas for confirmation he found him frowning.

"It's a good car," he said defensively. Dean took that chance to look around the road, sure that if it was atrocious, he'd be able to spot it. Ah. Dean pointed at a golden Lincoln Continental parked a bit further down the road.

"That one probably," he said and Claire burst out laughing, while Cas' expression soured. "It's… something. No offense Cas." Cas squinted at him.

"I should probably put you to work, instead of having you two bad-mouth my car," he said and that was reason enough for Claire to dash away with an assurance that she'd see Dean later.

"I'm just joking, Cas. I don't care what kind of car you drive," he told him, wrapping his arm around him. Cas snorted but he seemed appeased. "Now, anybody else I gotta meet?"

"Everyone insisted on being here, so they could inspect my new boyfriend," Cas said then he looked up at Dean, his expression seeming a bit insecure. "Are you alright with that?"

"Of course, Cas… I'm kinda curious about your family." Castiel relaxed at that, then he took Dean's hand and pulled him towards the house. As they walked up Dean could see curious faces disappear behind curtains and he heard some giggling and shushing. Dean knew that his family would be exactly the same once he brought Cas over.

"Remember, I have a twin brother," Castiel whispered to him and Dean nodded, then they went into the kitchen where everyone tried to look very casual. He obviously recognized Cas' twin at once and was a bit unsettled to see that the only visible difference was that Jimmy knew how to comb his hair. Their clothing style was similar too, so Dean had a short moment of worry for the inevitable confusion happening in the future.

"Alright, this is Dean," Castiel presented him, still holding on to his hand, almost as if he feared that Dean was going to run away. Dean gave his hand an encouraging squeeze.

"Hi everyone," Dean said with a grin and received an echoed hi back.

"My brother Jimmy," Cas started and Jimmy held out his hand to him, looking friendly and easy-going, giving his hand a firm squeeze.

"Nice to meet you, Dean," he said, then he turned towards the blonde woman at his side. "This is Amelia, my beautiful wife." Amelia rolled her eyes at him, but she also stepped up to shake Dean's hand.

"It's so good to see you, Dean. I believe you've already met our daughter, Claire," she said, "who is somewhere doing something very important I'm sure." Dean laughed and nodded.

"I'm Anna," the last person said cheerfully, shaking Dean's hand enthusiastically. Anna was probably around Sam's age, bright red hair like Charlie and the same piercing eyes that Jimmy and Cas had. "I'm Jimmy and Cas' cousin! And I'm very excited to meet you!"

"She is very excited," Castiel confirmed. Anna stuck out her tongue at him.

"Any man after Luke was going to be exciting! And he showed us some of the Florida photos! You make such a cute couple!" she said excitedly. Dean grinned at her, appreciatingly.

"Thanks, I think so too," he said, grinning at Cas, who managed to give him a somewhat shy smile back.

"It's sweet that you came to help him move," Amelia said. "Because we're just here to take a peek at you." Dean laughed.

"I'm hoping the peek was satisfactory," he answered, feeling himself relax easily. These people were Cas' family. People he cared about and that cared about him. He didn't have to be too nervous. Of course, he wanted to like them and be liked in return, but he didn't think this would be too big of a problem. "Is Jack at his father's?"

"Oh no, he's here somewhere," Cas said.

"Probably binge-watching Star Wars again, the little nerd…" Anna said with a chuckle. Dean had already heard a thing or two about Jack's fascination with Star Wars.

"Jack? Dean's here!" Cas called. They all listened for a reaction, which followed a couple of seconds later. There was a thump from upstairs and then the sound of feet hurrying down the stairs. Jack showed up in the door to the kitchen with a smile. He held up his hand.

"Hello!" he greeted, then he came close and didn't stop until he could give Dean a hug.

"Oh, hey, buddy! Nice to meet you for real," he said, a bit surprised by the affection from a teenaged alpha, but it was also kinda nice. Jack pulled back a bit and beamed up at him.

"You smell really nice for an alpha," Jack said, taking Dean by surprise yet again. Dean had of course been polite and not sniffed at the kid, but from what he could remember, alphas his age still didn't have a settled scent anyway.

"Dean probably knows how to use deodorant," Jimmy joked, receiving an elbow in the side by his wife. Jack seemed to consider that, but he didn't share his thoughts.

"Okay, should we bring this stuff over? Jack, do you want to come?" Castiel asked, receiving an eager nod by the kid. "Thank you for being our host, Anna. And thank you Jimmy and Amelia for coming to ogle at my boyfriend."

"It was a great pleasure," Amelia chirped with a wink.

"Hopefully we'll see you again, soon," Jimmy added. "Family BBQ will certainly be much improved if you join us."

"I wouldn't miss it! My parents live in Kansas and my mom has already jumped at the chance to make me come visit more. I'm sure I'll be over often enough if you'll have me," Dean answered easily. They shook hands again and Anna waved excitedly when they left. Claire was on the porch again when they came back out, typing on her phone.

"See you soon, Dean," she said without looking up, still with that "too cool for you" kind of attitude.

"Bye Claire," he answered, then followed Cas and Jack to the van. "Should I follow with my car or do you want me in the van?"

"In the van!" Jack answered right away, deciding for Dean. He looked at his car somewhat wistfully, but he supposed that it would be safe here for the time being. They all got into the van, Jack insisting on sitting in the middle seat, sandwiched by the adults. Cas squinted at the wheel, not seeming particularly pleased to be driving this thing. Dean refrained from offering to help, since he was sure Cas would have asked if he needed him to drive.

"I think it's very nice of you to help dad," Jack said, striking up a conversation the second they were on the move. "I had a feeling that you'd be the right match for him after you sent that message." Dean forced himself to keep his expression relaxed, while internally he couldn't help but cringe. It wasn't that he was embarrassed that Jack saw his selfie, but it was still odd for Dean to know that a picture he had aimed at an adult, was seen by his kid. An adult kid, but still. He was just glad he had had the foresight to not take off his robe.

"Seems you have good intuition," Dean eventually said, looking at Cas over the top of Jack's head who didn't seem to have any problems with Jack talking to him about this. Jack looked very pleased and since he was sitting so close to the boy, he did get a faint impression of his scent. It was very similar to his dad's, clear and fresh, with maybe a tiny hint of something floral.

"Are you worried about dating someone who already had a kid?" Jack asked next and Cas did flinch slightly at that, but he kept his eyes firmly on the road as they drove out of the suburbs.

"Why?" Dean wondered, unsure how to answer this question. Jack shrugged, and he didn't really look all that worried about the subject, even though he was frowning lightly, making him look even more like Cas.

"When I told father about you, he said that no self-respecting alpha would want dad now because he already had a kid. Apparently real alphas think that an omega loses appeal if they already had another alpha's child," Jack explained.

"That is not true, Jack. You know that your father has some old-fashioned ideas," Cas said and Dean agreed that this sounded really stupid.

"But you worried too. You said you were a newly divorced father of a teenager as if that would make you less attractive to someone else," Jack observed and the kid had a point there. "Claire said some people consider that… luggage."

"Baggage," Dean corrected with a small chuckle. "Some people just want everything easy, you know? But everybody has their own things they bring into a new relationship, even the so-called easy people."

"Oh, I understand. And?" he asked. Dean raised his eyebrow in confusion. "Did you worry about dad's baggage?" Dean took a moment to ponder that question. Cas had never beaten around the bush about his circumstances. And it wasn't like he had panicked when he was told about the ex-husband or the kid. But he also remembered the primal alpha hind-bring part of him that had been excited to see an "unblemished" neck. It had clearly read "no alpha had been here before" to a part of Dean that he often ignored outside of ruts, but well… Even though Dean wasn't that kind of alpha, he understood where the notion comes from.

"Yes and no? My last girlfriend also had a kid, so I wasn't worried about dating someone with a kid," Dean told him, "but of course I was worried if you'd like me. Or if your dad thinks I'm a good person to be around his son."

"Of course I like you," Jack said, almost indignant. "You are nice to me and you're funny. And you make my dad very happy."

"Uhm, he makes me very happy too," Dean admitted and looked at Cas, who still was focused on the road, but he had a small smile on his lips and his cheeks were red.

"Good," Jack said, then he turned back to his phone. That had been a surprise conversation but not necessarily a bad one.

Their trip stopped in front of an apartment building. The street wasn't particularly busy, this part of town looking to be mostly residential with only one café on the opposite street and a bus stop at the corner. They got out of the car and Dean took a moment to study the building. It wasn't too bad looking from the outside; somewhat dated maybe but definitely solid.

"Okay, let's all grab a bag, box or suitcase," Cas said, removing his sunglasses. They all got something out, then Cas locked the car and then they went inside. There luckily was an elevator, even though they had to squeeze in a bit, and up they went to the fourth story. They stepped out into a long, narrow corridor that made Dean feel somewhat claustrophobic but it only was a short walk to Cas' door. Cas unlocked it and led the others inside.

Cas sent Dean a small smile, wordlessly giving him permission to look around. Dean put down the suitcase and did just that. The place opened up right away, the kitchen next to the door, separated from the rest of the room by island counters. Behind that there was space for what must have been the living and dining room. Right ahead was a window front with a door leading to a balcony. There were two doors to the left and one to the right. "Jack's room, my room and the bathroom over there," Cas pointed out. Dean had a look in the rooms too, finding them to be somewhat small but not too shabby.

"It's not much but it won't be forever," Cas said, putting his hands in his hips, looking around.

"Hopefully not," Dean said with a small smile. Castiel turned his head to study Dean, his head tilted slightly. Dean felt himself get a little bit hot under the collar. It had been a subtle enough comment that Cas didn't have to take as him suggesting that they'd end up living together sooner or later. Eventually Dean got the all-clear when Cas started smiling at him.

"Dad!" Jack called, sliding back into the room with a serious expression. "I'll carry up my stuff."

"Of course," Cas answered, "I'll come down with you, so you can get into the car." Together they went back down to grab more stuff.

Cas didn't have a lot of things, because he had left most of his furniture in his ex-husband's house, but with the three of them and the tiny elevator it still took a long time to haul everything into the new apartment. Exhausted, Dean was lying on the mattress in Cas' bedroom. He didn't have a bed frame yet, but he had curtains and his clothing was properly stowed away in the built-in closet. His desk was built already and currently stood in the mostly bare living room. He had a TV but no couch yet and he had borrowed Jimmy and Amelia's foldable patio table and chairs to eat at.

"I'm glad that's done. The couch and bedframe will be delivered," Cas said, also lying down next to Dean, stretching all his limbs away from him. Dean groaned when he was smacked with Cas' heavy arm across his chest. Eventually Dean turned to his side, looking down at him. Cas looked a bit tired but still content. It must feel good to have his own space again after weeks in a motel. Cas smiled up at him. "Thank you." Dean grinned, then he leant down to kiss Cas softly. Cas returned the kiss, his fingers trailing along Dean's cheeks and jaw and before long they deepened the kiss. They didn't indulge for long, because Jack announced that he was putting together his furniture now.

"Better go help him," Dean suggested with a laugh. Cas groaned but let himself be pulled up. Jack had a lot of boxes of furniture to build, curtesy of his father as Dean quickly learnt.

"Luke is an ass, but he is concerned that Jack has the best. He's his firstborn alpha son after all," Castiel explained, while they all helped build the furniture. "And I'm not going to say no to him buying all Jack needs and being interested in him. It's only fair he contributes to Jack's wellbeing."

"Sure, makes sense," Dean said and looked at Jack, absorbed in the task of building a side table. "He could have splurged and sent in some guys to build this stuff though," he added jokingly.

"I wanted to do it myself," Jack said and Dean was surprised that the kid had listened in on their conversation. "I'll facetime him later to present our achievements." Jack studied the side table, sliding in the drawer. Then he sat back on his butt and looked at Dean with the same kind of intense look Cas often sent him.

"Father said alphas are supposed to be good at building things so he approved of me doing it myself. You are an alpha, Dean. What do you think?"

"Uh," Dean started, darting a look to Cas who merely shrugged, seemingly not sharing Dean's worry that he might say something stupid or stereotypical. "I think it depends on the person. Some people enjoy it, others don't. It's not that you have to enjoy building just because you're an alpha. I do like it. I have a job where I usually sit in front of computers or inside meetings for hours and hours. For me going into the garage and working on my car or fixing up old things is a hobby… It's something I enjoy doing. It's also something I did together with my dad so that made me like it more. But I can definitely imagine more interesting things to do than putting together Ikea shelves." Jack pondered that.

"I see," he finally said and seemed pleased even though Dean had no ideas what conclusions the kid had come to. Cas got up, putting his hand on Dean's shoulder to heave himself up.

"I think we've earned pizza," he said and both Dean and Jack found that to be a brilliant idea. Jack decided that they could drag their little fold up table and the chairs on the balcony and have pizza there. When Dean took his holidays, he clearly hadn't expected to end up sitting at a tiny table, on a little balcony, with the noise of the city pressing in, eating pizza with his boyfriend and his adult son. But it was nice. Dean enjoyed it a lot and even though he felt he was a bit too old to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor, he was very easily convinced to stay so that they could have breakfast together.

It was nice, as was joining the two on a shopping trip because Jack decided that they obviously had to decorate the bare apartment with some flowers.

"Dad likes flowers, but father always thought having a vase of flowers was a waste of money since we had such a nice garden," Jack said, then he grabbed Dean's hand and pulled him into the direction of a flower shop.

"Luke only approved of roses," Cas explained, as he trailed after them. "I like roses, but after 20 years you kind of wish you could see something else for once. Sunflowers maybe." Cas turned to Dean, who was still kind of taken aback by the easy way Jack was still holding on to him. Did 18-year-old alpha boys do that? He really couldn't remember him still holding hands with adults at that age. "Jack's very tactile. If you don't like it just let him know," Cas whispered. "He seems to be drawn to you especially."

"Oh no, it's fine if it's alright with you," Dean answered, somewhat flustered, then making a conscious decision to make himself available to Jack if that was what the kid wanted. Who knew how affectionate his alpha father was. Dean had constantly been looking for approval from and closeness too his dad and other alphas in his life as well while he was growing up. If Jack was the same, then it couldn't hurt having some alpha to turn to that didn't have totally antiquated ideas about omegas and relationships.

"I guess we'll be buying a bouquet then," Dean told Jack, getting his attention. Jack grinned.

"We could use father's credit card," Jack said conspiratorially. "I doubt he'll check what I spend the money on."

"Hm, but what if I bought them? As the new boyfriend I think it's my duty to buy your dad some flowers," Dean suggested. Jack pondered that while Cas shot him a dubious look. Jack decided that was a good decision as long as he got to choose the bouquet. Jack let go of Dean at that point and greeted one of the florists.

"You don't need to do that," Cas told him. Dean wrapped his arm around Cas, kissing his forehead.

"Nope! But I want to. What am I supposed to do with my money if not use it to treat my boyfriend with some flowers?" Cas seemed to accept that line of reasoning and let Dean go to ask Jack's advice on flowers he could bring his parents.

The shopping ended with a trip to Starbucks and then they got back into Cas' rental car and returned home to enjoy one more evening together before Dean would pack his things and go visit his parents.

It hadn't been all that easy to say good-bye to Cas and Jack, but he had promised to drop in again on his way back from his family on Sunday. Just spending time with them, even in their mostly empty apartment, had really shown Dean what he was missing.

He was glad when he made it to his parents' place and was welcomed in with hugs from both of them. Mary was delighted to receive the flowers.

"Jack helped pick them, he wanted that noted," Dean said and while Mary and John looked at him quizzically, Mary quickly smiled and ushered Dean into the living room. Dean had been on the road for hours and he was glad to finally stretch his legs.

"So! How have you been? How was Illinois?" Mary wanted to know, eager for information. Dean was used to this, considering she had been as excited about his past partners. John was happy to drink his coffee, letting Mary do all the work of tickling the details out of Dean.

"Good. Florida was great and I had a nice time in Illinois. I got to meet some of Cas' family and spent two days with Cas in his new apartment even though we had to sleep on a mattress in Cas' room because his bed frame was delayed," he said with a chuckle. "And I got to know Cas' son Jack a bit better. He's a cute kid."

"How old was he again?"

"He turned 18 in May. I don't remember how I was at that age, but Jack is a bit… affectionate? I'm not sure how to best describe it. He hugs me, even scents me, pretty casually, and he still grabs Cas' or my hand. I'm pretty sure I didn't try to hold your hand, dad," Dean said with a laugh.

"No, but you were pretty clingy."

"Affectionate is the word you're looking for, John," Mary told him with a laugh, the she looked at Dean. "That's normal. Some alpha boys will try to challenge everyone, especially alphas in the family, to figure out boundaries and their place in the family. You did that too for a bit, but usually you were looking to your dad for guidance and affection."

"Yeah… I'm not sure he got the right kind of guidance and affection from his father… I remember Cas telling me that Jack's father didn't want Jack to be around Cas all the time once Jack presented as an alpha, because it would negatively impact his development as an alpha. He also didn't like Jack hanging out with his omega cousin or even drinking Starbucks stuff because it wasn't alpha enough," Dean explained.

"Ooh, he's one of those alphas," Mary said with a scoff. "No wonder Jack is drawn to you, especially if his omega parent signals to him that he feels comfortable around you."

"This is somewhat new to me, I just don't want to make a mistake," Dean told her. "Cas seems to be pretty chill about having me around Jack and just letting the kid do what he feels comfortable with, but I'm still a bit nervous."

"Sure… Probably also because you might get attached and when things fall apart you'll end up missing the kid too," Mary said. Dean thought about that and especially his instant rejection of that idea.

"I… don't think we're gonna fall apart," he said tentatively. Mary lifted her eyebrow. "Cas and I match so well… I've never been so comfortable around anyone. I don't want to rush things but I guess Cas might be it for me." There was a moment of silence before Mary clapped her hands in excitement.

"That would be wonderful, Dean! You need to have a family around you," she said, smiling brightly.

"I guess if you know, you know," John said, "but that's still a big step and will take a lot of work. He just moved after all, I doubt he'd be ready to uproot his life and go to Ohio with you."

"No… I don't think so either," Dean answered, "but I'll find a way." His parents were quiet after that, doing that weird silent conversation they often did. It made him feel somewhat defensive. "What?"

"It does seem that you're serious. But I just wonder… What about mating? About having kids of your own? Cas already went through it before, and not just recently. It might be hard for him to do it all over again now," Mary cautioned, surprising Dean.

"Uhm… We're not really at the point where it came up," Dean answered somewhat uneasily. "And I don't have to have kids of my own…"

"Are you sure?" John asked sharply which made Dean tense up. "That's a big thing to miss out on if it's something you want."

"Is this you trying to get grandkids? Got tired of pestering Jess and Sammy?" Dean wanted to know, trying to bring some levity into the conversation but his parents didn't react to it. He sighed. "Look, I don't know yet. We've only been together for a short while. Let me figure this out bit by bit."

"Sure, but I hope you'll bring him around at one point! We'd love to meet Cas!" Mary insisted, clapping Dean's thigh.

"Ouch. What was that for?" Dean asked, rubbing the stinging spot.

"I'm just excited! My baby's first omega partner!" she announced as if that was such a monumental thing. Just because he was an alpha didn't mean he had to date omegas. It was the 21st century after all.

"First guy he'll bring home on top of that, if he does end up bringing him home," John added. Dean lifted his eyebrow at him.

"That's not a problem, is it?" he asked and now it was John's turn to roll his eyes. "I had no coming out. I'm so sorry that I made you miss out on this milestone." John lifted his hand at him, waving dismissively and Dean grinned at him cheekily.

"This might be the Midwest, but it's not the 80s anymore," John said with a huff and Mary chuckled too. "As long as you're happy and you use protection, we don't care."


"What? It's true!" John told him. "Cas might be over 40 but he's an omega. As long as omegas have their heats they can pop out babies! Tell him Mary."

"He paid attention in sex ed; he knows that!" Mary laughed, slapping the back of her hand against John's chest playfully.

"I hope you two are using protection," Dean joked, "would be weird having a sibling that's 40 years younger than me." His parents groaned. "Hey! You started it!"

"Well fine, we'll shut up about it, for now," his mother agreed and then they decided that they had plenty more pie to eat.

Chapter Text

Life, Cas found, continued on, with no regards for the fact that Cas would greatly prefer to still have some time to process what exactly had happened in the last couple of weeks. But sadly, there was no time to bask in the joy of his new boyfriend, or ponder the changes that were still coming his way. Come Monday, Cas had to return to work and while everything in his personal life was shifting and readjusting, work remained the same. The same tedious commute to work, the same feeling of invisibility, the same odious talk about the corporate pack. The insurance firm was big enough that Cas usually could just keep his head down and did his 8 hours, without being pestered with questions about his child, his divorce, his holiday. Cas never told anyone about his divorce, but Luke was relatively well known in their community and he had arranged this job for him in the first place. That it would travel through the corporate grapevine was inevitable. He had heard the gossip and the less favorable comments about his assumed inability to keep his husband happy. But Cas' life simply wasn't that juicy and Cas didn't like anyone in the firm enough to discuss this topic, so interest soon dissipated.

And so the days continued in their usual way, with the only difference being that at the end of the day Cas didn't return to his and Luke's home. And sometimes during lunch breaks he and Dean exchanged texts but Dean was notoriously bad about his breaks, often working through all of them, eating between calls, or out on business lunches. On top of that Jack had spent most of this first week of work at his father's place, engrossed in a game that was obviously better enjoyed on Luke's expensive TV and luxurious couch. Cas didn't exactly begrudge his son that; of course he should enjoy what Luke's money had to offer, but… well… Cas was maybe a bit of a selfish bastard at heart and hated coming into the apartment with his son's scent already stale and Jack forgetting to let him know that he was still not coming home. (How long did it take to play a game? And what if it was a whole game series and he never came home, the lure of the comfort of luxury and the never-ending supply of snacks too strong?) Luckily for Cas, he at least could share his sorrows with Dean now, who might chuckle a bit at Cas' laments about his son's current game addiction, but generally had an open ear for the more serious underlying reasons for Cas' unhappiness.

And eventually this initial grappling mellowed out too and he found a semblance of a new, temporary, routine. Castiel and Luke had agreed that they didn't need to arrange a formal custody routine for their son since Jack was old enough to make his own decisions. Luke, despite all his short-comings and his tempting superior media equipment, didn't actively try to keep Jack away from Cas. When Cas called Luke to ask if Jack was alright because he hadn't texted in a while, Luke had made Jack call his dad. And after one unnecessarily heated conversation about Jack not checking in with Cas for days, Jack did opt to mostly stay with Cas. Cas was ashamed to admit to himself that Jack probably predominantly stayed with him in his tiny apartment because he seemed to be able to tell that Cas needed a bit of support, mostly of the emotional kind. Uprooting his life by getting divorced and moving was one big thing, adjusting to soon having Jack move out was another, maybe even a bigger one.

That Dean was now a part of his life couldn't quite dull the fear of that and Dean didn't have personal experience to draw on. Jimmy of course knew what it was like to let his kid attend college but Amelia and Jimmy were very relaxed about it, even excited to have the time to focus on each other a bit more. Consequently, Cas felt Jimmy's advice was mostly useless.

"It's not like he's off the face of the earth," Jimmy told him when they had coffee on Cas' little balcony. The apartment was finally starting to look somewhat less empty, even though it still only had the bare necessities and some flowers. "You have to let him figure out the world out there too."

"But none of his friends will be there. And Claire won't be there either and she contributed a lot to Jack's impulse control… I have no idea how Jack will do completely on his own, without other people's guidance," Cas argued. "Jack can be… immature and impulsive and naïve. It's not the best combination."

"Yeah, he's a little alpha," Jimmy said with a light chuckle. "Just set him up with rut suppressants and condoms and he shouldn't mess up too badly at college." Castiel felt his mouth fall open in horror, but Jimmy started laughing. Cas shoved him.

"This isn't funny, Jimmy!" Cas grumbled.

"It is a bit funny," Jimmy insisted. "Come on, Cas. It's not like Jack is far away. Illinois State is a short car drive away from home. And even though Luke's disgruntled that he didn't want to go to Michigan State like him, Jack is his precious alpha son. He'll make sure to grease the right palms to keep Jack out of trouble," Jimmy told him. Technically Cas knew all of this, but it was still unsettling to him not to see Jack all of the time. That he had only been able to call Jack back out of his gaming induced absence by tempting him with Dean's weekend visit had been bad enough. Jimmy studied him, leaning back in his chair with a somewhat smug expression. "You're no longer married to Luke, Cas. I don't think you would have greatly enjoyed yourself if you were, but with Dean in the picture maybe you'll swiftly learn that there are benefits to no longer having to parent 24/7." Cas wrinkled his nose. "Amelia and I are definitely enjoying ourselves."

"I'm happy for your fulfilled love life, but Dean and I aren't living together," Cas grumbled.

"Then maybe you can use your extra time to figure out your job situation. Or pick up some hobbies," Jimmy suggested, clearly unphased by Cas' sour mood. Cas heaved a sigh but he supposed Jimmy was right. There wasn't anything he could do about Jack's desire to be more independent but accept it. Jack was 18 now and Cas should be grateful that Jack had easily agreed to Cas' suggestion that he would look for a college not too far from home.

"When are you going to see Dean again?" Jimmy asked, pulling Cas out of his thoughts.

"This weekend. He said his parents were very excited that they can profit off of Dean making the drive to Illinois almost every weekend," Cas answered.

"Are you going to meet them too?" Cas had expected that question.

"Dean hasn't asked me yet if I wanted to meet them…," he admitted. Jimmy instantly picked up on his insecurity.

"Cas, you're not a shy, little omega. If you want to meet his parents, then nothing stops you from asking if you could join him." Cas shrugged, still uncertain.

"What if he thinks it's too early?" Cas asked but Jimmy only rolled his eyes at him, causing a spark of annoyance to flare up in Cas. "Fine. I'll ask." Jimmy poured both of them more lemonade then he lifted it to toast Cas.

"I'll drink to that. It can't be any worse than meeting Luke's father. That was one dysfunctional family dynamic. I'm sure the Winchesters will be much more reasonable." Despite being slightly irritated, Cas had to laugh.

"Yeah, that's a comfort."

Even though Cas seemed determined to treat his apartment like temporary housing, Dean still felt like he was coming home when he finally left his work week behind himself, parked his car in the garage and rang the doorbell. And once he could kiss Cas hello, he finally allowed himself to relax.

"Jack's out with his friends today, buying some more things for his move to the dorms next week," Cas said once Dean had settled a bit, handing Dean a beer. "He insisted on doing it himself, without my interference."

"That’s rough, buddy," Dean said jokingly.

"I'm getting used to it," Cas answered gruffly but both of them knew Cas was simply getting better at lying. "Are you going to visit your parents tomorrow?" Dean was surprised by the question but he nodded.

"Mom would have my head if I didn't. Even though I'm actually getting a bit tired of the constant driving." Dean liked travelling, but leaving straight from work to visit Cas, then leaving around midday on Saturday to get some hours of sleep and breakfast at his parents' place and then do the whole long drive back for a shower and a nap before work on Monday? Kinda rough, even on his alpha physiology. He drank some of his beer, unsure how to possibly fix that issue without having to tell his mom he'd have to cut down on the visits. He noticed after a moment that Cas was unusually still next to him. He turned to look at him. "What is it?"

"I wanted to ask…," Cas started and Dean gave him an encouraging nod. "I would like to meet your parents." Dean looked at him in surprise.

"Really?" he wanted to know, receiving a nod from Cas in return. "I'd like that." Cas' relief was obvious. "Were you worried I would say no?"

"Not necessarily. But that you might think that we're rushing things," Cas admitted.

"Nothing wrong with moving at a swift pace, if you know that you're on the right track," Dean admitted. Castiel smiled at him. "Because I'm sure we are."

"I think so too," Cas admitted. "But I want to see Jack off to college and get used to that a bit before I make any other big decisions." He looked at Dean, his expression dashing all fears that bubbled up in Dean. "I mean moving arrangements, job changes, so that we can be closer. I don't have any doubts that I want to be with you for as long as you'll have me." Dean couldn’t resist, he had to wrap Cas in a hug and kiss him senseless.

"I want that too," he told him honestly. "More than anything." Castiel smiled at him with his usual adoring look when Dean released him. "Uhm. Yeah. Okay. I'll call my parents. But I must warn you; they've given up on pestering my brother and his girlfriend about grandkids. They might have abandoned all shame and ask you about it."

"Well, then maybe we should bring Jack," Cas said, totally unphased. This wasn't exactly what Dean had meant, but the implication still made Dean a bit weak in the knees. Cas patted Dean's thigh affectionately before he left the balcony, either to give Dean privacy to call his parents or to send Jack a message about the change in plans. Without overthinking it, he called his parents, his mom picking up on the second ring.

"Dean! I was just about to leave the house to get pie ingredients! We're still on for tomorrow, right?" she asked, before Dean even could get as much as a hello in.

"Yes, but I wanted to ask if it's okay if I bring Cas and maybe Jack? Cas said he'd like to meet you," he said. Mary, dramatic as she was, gasped.

"Of course! We'd love to have them! Right, John?" Dean could hear his father grumble something, but apparently it was the kind of affirmative grumbling his mother wanted. "Okay! So you'll still get here late tomorrow?"

"Maybe we'll leave earlier, depends on what Jack's up to." Mary agreed easily and after saying their goody-byes Dean hung up the phone. Cas came back out onto the balcony not long after, looking at his phone, typing.

"Jack's on board," he announced and just like that their plans were made. Dean couldn't quite believe that Cas really wanted to meet his parents, less than two months after they got together. But Dean was happy and couldn't wait.

Much to Dean's relief, Jack was pretty good about hanging out in the back of the car for the long drive. Jack's request to be allowed to drive was luckily shot down by Cas before Dean had to say anything about it.

Since they had left early on Saturday, they managed to get to Lawrence for dinner. Jack was instantly out of the car, excitedly looking from Dean to the house, holding on to the straps of his backpack. Dean caught himself thinking that Jack really was a cute kid, even though he wasn't actually a kid anymore. But it was similar to how Dean saw Sam, especially when he had been a bright-eyed 18-year-old ready to follow Dean to Stanford.

"You okay?" Cas asked, when Dean was lingering by the car, just as Jack decided he had waited enough. "Jack!" he called but Jack was already ringing the door-bell. Cas heaved a sigh.

"Sure," Dean said with a smile, "I'm just a bit nervous. I want you to be comfortable with my family." Cas sent him a smile, then he took Dean's hand and followed Jack, just in time for the door to open. Mary and John were both at the door, well-dressed to receive their guests.

"Hello!" Jack announced. "I'm Jack, nice to meet you!"

"Hello Jack!" Mary answered promptly, clearly delighted. "It's so good to meet you! I'm Mary and this is my husband John." John nodded at them. Then she opened the door wider to let them all in. "Come in, come in! You must be Cas!"

"Yes, thank you for your hospitality," Cas said politely, shaking hands with both of Dean's parents.

"You're very welcome. We've been dying to meet you both ever since Dean told us about you," Mary assured them.

"How about a lemonade, son?" John offered and before Dean could be confused about why his dad offered him anything else than beer, he realized that he had meant Jack.

"Yes please," the boy said politely, taking off his backpack and his shoes.

"Beer for you two?"

"Yes please," Cas echoed Jack and Mary had to laugh because the two really were alike. Mary ushered them all into the kitchen, where Jack happily looked around, checking out the pictures hanging in the kitchen.

"Is that Sam?" he asked, pointing at a framed photograph of them all in front of the house that was over 30 years old by now.

"Yes. He was a chubby baby," John said, handing Jack his lemonade, before he put two beers for Dean and Cas on the counter. Jack eyed the beer with interest but Cas shot him a look at which the boy refocused on his drink.

"Dean said he lives in Stanford," Jack said after he made some appreciative noises about the lemonade and while Dean hadn't expected otherwise, he was glad that Jack was this interested and had no reservations to ask questions.

"Both of our boys got scholarships and went to Stanford," Mary said proudly. "Very far away but I think both of them enjoyed it."

"Dean told us you're starting college this fall. What college did you decide on?" John wanted to know.

"Illinois State," Jack said with a smile. "I didn't want to go too far away. At least not now. I can still go somewhere else later on."

"That's in Normal, right?" John asked. Jack nodded. "I was born there. My mother still lives there. She makes really good pancakes. I'm sure she would be happy to cook for you if you ever get tired of instant noodles."

"Grandma Millie's pancakes are legendary," Dean agreed even though his father suggestion took him by surprise. He definitely enjoyed how Jack's face lit up at the promise of pancakes.

"We don't want to impose," Cas said uncertainly, clearly unsure if his parents were just being polite or if they meant it.

"I do want to impose if she'll feed me," Jack argued. John and Mary started laughing even though Cas seemed somewhat consternated by his son's disregard for manners.

"Well, then I guess we'll go say hi to Grandma Millie when we move your stuff to your dorm," Dean said and shot Cas a smile to let him know he meant it. "She's a nice old lady, she'll love Jack. She always loved feeding her alpha boys." With that Mary invited them all to relocate to the living room, while they waited for the dinner to finish cooking.

"Are there a lot of alphas in the family?" Cas wondered, clearly interested. Mary chuckled.

"Yup, lots of Alpha boys in the Winchester line. It was a bit of a challenge to have three alphas in the house," she said, then she lifted her arm, flexing with a grin. "But nothing an omega can't handle, right?" Cas laughed at that, but nodded. "And what about you, Cas? Do you have siblings? Parents?"

"I was raised by a single mom. She has always been and is still very proud to have had two omega sons. I have one brother, a twin actually. He's married and has a daughter a bit older than Jack. The family of Jack's father is full of alphas. Luke, that's Jack's father, was very proud when Jack presented, despite the fact that there are plenty of omegas and betas in my family," Cas explained.

"Does Jack have any siblings?" John wanted to know.

"He's very close to his cousin Claire, but no, no siblings," Cas answered. Dean knew that of course, but he had actually never asked why he and his ex stopped at one. Not that there was anything wrong with that, not all people day-dreamed about having to buy a mini van for his kids.

"It could be a bit boring at times, being the only kid at family meetings when we meet up with father's family and I couldn't bring Claire with me," Jack spoke up.

"But you were pretty spoiled by your father and uncles," Cas reminded him. Jack nodded at that, a grin on his face.

"Michael always spoiled me. Gabe doesn't like kids… But now that I'm an adult uncle Gabe does seem to like me. I think… He always tries to get me into trouble, because he feels that alphas should always get into trouble," he said. "He and father wanted to take me to Las Vegas, to gamble, drink and go to strip clubs. Alpha stuff." Dean shot Cas a look, seeing his boyfriend's face change into a somewhat uncomfortable frown.

"Well, I never did that with my kids," John said with a laugh, even though Dean personally found Jack's words somewhat disturbing. It was also really hard to imagine the kid in a strip club.

"Most reasonable parents don't do that," Castiel said with a frown that had Jack look at him with a thoughtful expression. "You're not even old enough to drink!"

"Uncle Gabe and father say that it doesn't matter for alphas!" Jack argued. "We're very good with alcohol." He seemed to think about that, then he lifted his head, a determined expression on his face. "Actually, I think I should be allowed to drink beer now."

"Uh, no," Castiel told him, which Jack answered with a pout. "I don't know what your father allows you but until you're 21 you get a mug of mulled wine at Christmas and that's it." At that Jack turned his pout to Dean almost as if he wished to be backed up. But Castiel sent him a warning look so Dean refrained from telling him how he had his first beer long, long before he was 21.

"Your dad's right. Also you can get plenty of cool alcohol free drinks. They usually actually taste better," Dean offered. Jack's pout stayed. Dean actually had to laugh when Jack looked at John. But he swallowed it down when he could see Cas expression darken slightly.

"Why are you looking at me, son? I'm no longer 18, I've got to watch out for my liver," he said easily, raising his cup of coffee. "Listen to your dad."

"Hmph, fine," Jack finally agreed. Cas sighed, but then Mary decided that dinner was ready and they were all ushered to the table.

Dean was glad how easy the interactions between his parents and Cas and Jack were as the evening progressed. His parents could be overbearing at times, but also a bit reluctant to fully trust a good thing when it was in front of their noses. They were kind and interested in their interactions with Cas and Jack, but Dean knew his parents well enough to see that there was a slight reservation about Cas. Almost as if they didn't quite believe their new relationship was serious enough to lead to them meeting again. And hell, maybe that was to be expected, considering Dean's track record with relationships. But so far they hadn't asked any difficult or embarrassing questions to assess just how serious Cas was about Dean so he counted it as a win.

"He's nice. Cute kid too," John said, when Cas finally convinced a yawning Jack that it was time to sleep. Dean had shown him Sam's old room earlier, so Cas took the kid up himself, leaving Dean with his parents.

"It seems Jack's in a bit of a rebellious alpha phase though," Mary mused, her voice quiet.

"Cas certainly noticed," Dean answered, recalling Cas' less than pleased expression before dinner. "Is Jack supposed to do that?"

"I don't know? Not normally unless he's a super impressionable kid." Dean shrugged. "I'm almost a bit offended that he didn't also ask me if he could have a beer. Obviously, I'm the one in charge here," Mary said with a wink.

"Don't we know it," John said, winking back at his wife. Dean rolled his eyes at them fondly, but before they could continue gossiping (if this was what his mom was doing) he heard Cas coming down the stairs.

Cas seemed slightly put off when he appeared in the door frame, his parents stopping their silent bantering. Cas ducked his head and sat down next to Dean on the couch. Dean could tell that he was somewhat tense. Dean handed him the rest of his beer, which Cas gratefully took.

"That bad, huh?"

"He's a bit too old to really care for me tucking him into bed. Sometimes I forget that he's 18," Cas said.

"Hah, I can relate," Mary said, "I can't believe Dean's almost 40. He's still my little baby though. He even lets me cut the crust off his sandwich, indulging my mothering like the good boy he is."

"Hey now, stop embarrassing me in front of my boyfriend," Dean said, but without any heat behind it.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe Cas is the type who would benefit from knowing that you like to be pampered a bit," Mary told him cheekily, winking at Cas. "Though maybe you've already figured that out." Dean felt his face heat up when he realized what his mother was trying to do.


"What! Some alphas struggle to say that they like to be cuddled! Just ask your dad!" Mary argued, waving her hand towards her husband.

"No, leave me out of this," John shot back, happily ignoring the conversation in favor of reading his softball magazine.

"Dean is communicative," Cas said, sounding somewhat unsure. "I find our sex life very satisfying and I can only hope Dean feels the same." Dean put his hand over his face, groaning. He spread his fingers enough to be able to peek at Cas through them, finding him looking up at Dean with a bit of an unsure expression. So Dean dropped his hand, instead wrapping his arm around Cas to pull him closer.

"Yeah, of course I feel the same," Dean told him softly, even though he felt the burn of embarrassment at saying that in the presence of his parents. Cas's smile seemed relieved. He looked at Cas for a while, drinking in his features, his beautiful eyes, his soft smile…

John cleared his throat, not very subtly.

"The kid leaving the house is a big deal, do you already know how you're going to spend your newly won freedom?" John asked. Since Cas was still looking at him, Dean got to see the flicker of upset on Cas' face before he schooled it and turned to look at John.

"Not yet. My brother suggested finding a hobby. Or a new job," he answered. "I currently work as an accountant for a big insurance company… I'm thinking of switching to a smaller business…"

"That's a good idea, Cas. I've been trying to tell Dean to get a new job for years… You don't need to make millions to be happy."

"I'm not making millions," Dean argued with a grumble. "And I like Sandover. I like the job."

"How are you two going to manage the distance thing in the long run?" John asked, more curious than critical. "I get it's new between you but I'm sure that's something you have to figure out."

"Lisa moved to Ohio for you," Mary observed and Dean instantly felt the comment rub him the wrong way.

"Well…" Cas started, sounding slightly unsure and Dean was sure he was well able to pick up on what Mary was getting at.

"Yes, and Lisa and me still didn't work out. Living with each other is no guarantee for a successful relationship. Cas and I both work full-time and we have weekends together. No point in moving just so Cas can watch me snore at 10 PM during the week."

"You know I do love to watch you sleep any day of the week," Cas teased and Dean was momentarily stunned by his attempt to lighten up the conversation. But Cas' focus was back on Dean's parents.

"For the moment our arrangement works, but I know it's taking a toll on Dean to travel so often. I'd be happy to move in together, wherever that might eventually end up being, but right now I have a son to see off to college. And I'll need time to get used to that change. I know Jack's dad and my family will remain close even if I move away, but I'm not ready to be hours apart. Not yet…," he answered and Dean was a bit in awe at his level of diplomacy. Dean would have probably told his parents to stop being so nosy if Cas hadn't spoken up.

"I suppose it is a big change if you have no other kid at home to distract you," John answered, apparently happy enough to change the subject.

"It took quite some adjustment when Dean left… We probably hyper focused on Sam," Mary agreed.

"Yes, the poor bastard took the first chance he got to escape," Dean joked which had Mary toss a crumpled up napkin at him.

"Some young alphas think they're all grown up and don't need their parents anymore," Mary eventually said after Dean had stopped snickering. Castiel seemed to ponder that.

"I can say with certainty that I don't like Jack's new found desire for independence. I know this is probably a bad thing for a father to say but I do find it very hard to stop… being controlling. I've probably been clinging more than I used to before the divorce too…," he eventually admitted. "Maybe that's why he's reluctant to listen to me now."

"No offense Cas, I'm sure Jack is a sweetheart," Mary started and Cas looked at her, "but teenagers can be assholes." Dean had to stop himself from laughing when he saw Cas' startled expression. "Take that young man over there!" Mary continued and pointed at Dean who suddenly didn't feel like laughing anymore. "Perfect gentleman, very family-oriented. But when he left for college do you think he bothered to call us?"

"I didn't have a cell phone," Dean mumbled defensively.

"Sometimes kids are self-absorbed and sometimes they act out. It might just be the circumstances all coming together," John said. "But it might also just be Jack coming up on his first rut. If he hasn't had it already."

"Oh… no… he hasn't," Cas said, sounding somewhat uneasy. "Actually, Luke's the one who had all of the alpha related talks with Jack… I admit I've taken the somewhat easy way out when Luke said that this was alpha business… We've talked a bit, but he doesn't seek me out when he has questions about what it means to be an alpha." Castiel looked at Dean. "He has a lot of opportunities to ask me, but whenever Dean's around he asks him instead."

"Seems the kid is pretty attached already," John observed and while Dean noticed the somewhat reserved smiles of his parents, Cas seemed to disregard them, instead looking up at Dean with a soft smile.

"We both are."

"Aw, Cas. You're such a flirt," Dean said, pulling him close to kiss his forehead.

"So," Mary started, but John interrupted her:

"Well, I'm beat, I think I'll head to bed," he said, slapping his magazine on the side table. Dean noticed the look Mary sent him, but John got up and held out his hand to her. Mary heaved a sigh, but let herself be pulled to her feet.

"We'll see you two tomorrow at breakfast, I believe?" Mary asked, receiving two nods in return. "Good night you two."

"Good night," Castiel answered while Dean just nodded. He somehow got the feeling that John had helped Dean dodge a bullet here. He couldn't be sure what his mom had meant to ask, but since they had just mentioned Jack being attached to Dean, he could imagine where the question would have headed.

Dean and Cas listened to the sound of John and Mary's steps, hearing them whisper, but then the door to their bedroom upstairs closed, leaving Dean and Cas alone in the living room, the light dimmed, still with some beer left over.

"I think you handled my parents' nosy questions well," Dean told Cas after a while, pulling Cas closer into his side, rubbing his arm.

"Hm," was all Cas had to say to that, which made Dean draw back slightly to be able to look at Cas. Cas did look up at that, his expression thoughtful.

"They seem a bit… reserved."

"For someone who once told me you had no people skills, you are pretty observant," Dean said with a small smile. Castiel narrowed his eyes at him, but there was no heat behind it. "Yeah… My parents are like that… Once I left college my relationships never lasted… I think they're just reluctant to trust me when I tell them that I want you around for a long, long time." Cas smiled up at him, leaning in to kiss him.

"Then we'll just have to come visit again until they believe it…" Dean wrapped his arms around Cas, laughing softly.

"It's a promise then," he said.

Luckily, Mary never did bring up the big question about mating and kids. She seemed to be fine to fuss over Jack, who happily allowed it. If she was unsure about where Cas and Dean's relationship would go, she certainly seemed to have no reservation about Jack. When Dean had still dated Lisa, Mary had only seen Lisa's kid Ben a couple of times and they never really got to bond as a family (which was for the better in the long run). Cas clearly had no reservations to have Jack bond with Dean's parents and since John again reminded them to not forget about grandma Millie, the Winchesters weren't exactly unwilling to connect properly.

"A patchwork pack," Mary decided when they were saying good-bye. "It's probably not going to be easy."

"But it's also not going to be hard," Dean assured her, then he pulled her into a hug. "Thanks for all the food, mom." Jack and Cas were already by the car, having said their good-byes earlier. From the looks of it, Jack was again trying to get permission to drive the car which wasn't gonna happen. Eventually the kid got into the back seat again, pulling out his phone.

"You think you'll bringing them over again?"

"Sure. Cas wanted to meet you and I doubt you scared him away with all your questions," Dean told his mom. Mary opened her mouth to argue, her brows creased, but eventually she heaved a sigh.

"Fine. I might have been a bit pushy, but I just want to make sure you know what you're doing. I get you're in the honeymoon phase of your relationship but…"

"You don't have to worry that much," Dean insisted. Mary studied him, but in the end she nodded. She pulled him back into another hug, kissing his cheek.

"See you soon, Dean," John said, also hugging him and then Dean walked to the car. Cas was sitting in the driver's seat, like they had agreed on. And while that would usually fill Dean with anxiety, he actually enjoyed the view.

"Okay, buddy, be careful with her. She's a very classy woman and you need to treat her well," Dean said, slipping into the passenger seat.

"You know dad's gay, right? He doesn't know how to treat a lady!" Jack argued from the backseat. Cas rolled his eyes.

"Oh, and you know better, kid? How many girlfriends have you had?" Dean shot back. Jack pouted, sitting back down. "That's what I thought." Dean turned around again and sent Cas a look. "You good to go?" Cas smiled at him, one of his cute, bright smiles. "Okay, let's get back to Illinois!"

Despite Cas driving to Illinois in the hopes of giving Dean some time to relax, he felt dead on his feet once he was back at work on Monday morning. He knew he looked bad in ways no amount of coffee could cover.

"Roll on concealer for the eyebags," his assistant told him, "got me through many meetings. Wasn't any less tired, but at least I looked sharp." Dean groaned, rubbing his eyes. "Some more coffee maybe?"

"Yes, thank you Tessa," Dean said, his voice sounding rough even to his ears. Tessa handed him the print out of this week's schedule and then she left. Monday fortunately took it easy on him with meetings and conference calls, but there was a whole mess in his inbox that he had to deal with. He looked into the mirror he had hanging next to his closest where he kept a change of clothes and his gym bag (and often also his travel suitcase if he left for Cas' place right after work). Yeah, he looked like crap.

Tessa came back with his coffee and a cup for herself as well since Dean liked to socialize a little bit with his staff when he could. Corporate pack bonding, Sandover claimed.

"What's the matter, Dean?" Tessa asked. "Since you don't have a social life, I assume you weren't out partying."

"I do have a social life, thank you very much," Dean said with a snort. "It's just the long drive between home and Cas' place. And my parent's place."

"You can tell your parents that you can't drive that much every weekend, you know?" Tessa chastised him but Dean only pulled a face. "Dean, for the last couple of years you have seen your parents only for special occasions. I get that you want things to change, but you don't have to overdo it. Your parents will understand. And so will your boyfriend if you can't see him."

"Well, my mother wouldn't be pleased," Dean said, sipping his coffee and sighing gratefully. "And I already promised Cas I'd help his son move to college." Dean looked up from his coffee when he only got silence from Tessa. He found her studying him with a calculating expression and it was the same look she gave the calendar when Dean went into one of his workaholic moods.

"I can call him and cancel," she said, her voice flat. Dean frowned at her. Tessa put her coffee cup down and looked at Dean, her eyes as intense as always. "You're entangling yourself in responsibilities that don't have to be yours, Dean. Are you sure you want to weave yourself into the tapestry of Castiel's life? This fully? This early?"

"How poetic, Tessa. You should have become a writer," Dean said with a snort, but he was still slightly ill at ease with her line of questioning.

"And yet I'm here," she said easily, shrugging off the heavier tone she brought into the conversation. "Cleaning up your messes."

"Mostly they're Adler's messes," Dean grumbled. "But to your question… yes. I want to be with Cas and that means I have to be there to support him when things are though and they're though for him right now."

"You are a softie under all that corporate pack alpha exterior, aren't you?" Tessa teased but Dean didn't even try to deny it. "I guess you'll just have to suck it up and invest in some concealer."

"Haha, very funny," Dean muttered but then their nice coffee break was interrupted by a phone call. "Ah, here we go. Adler's calling."

"Enjoy," Tessa said, quickly leaving the office to sip her coffee in peace. Dean shook his head, but then he took a deep breath, pushed all the worries of his private life aside and got to work.

Chapter Text

In the week leading up to Jack's move to college, Jack was like a hurricane let loose. Cas tried not to take it to heart that Jack was so excited, since Cas too remembered how he had looked forwards to going to college, regardless of whatever his mother's feelings might have been on the topic. The fact that he had to work and was only ever around to help Jack out in the evenings was also eating at him, even though Jack seemed to be able to get stuff done well by himself or with help from Claire.

And then it finally was Friday evening and Dean showed up at the door to the apartment. Cas was nearly overwhelmed by his sense of gratitude to see the man even though he had known he would be showing up.

"Sorry I'm late. I couldn't get off work earlier half past 5," he said after kissing Cas hello. Cas looked him over. Dean was still in his suit but at one point during the drive here he had removed his tie.

"You could have made the drive tomorrow," Cas told him, slightly worried about the tired smile Dean sent him. The smile soon changed into a cheeky grin.

"And miss one evening with you? No way," he said and wrapped his arms around Cas, kissing him again, but with big, noisy kisses all over his face. Cas had to laugh, half-heartedly pushing Dean away, but eventually he gave up and let himself be showered in kisses.

"Is the kid ready?" Dean asked when he deemed Cas satisfactorily kissed, nodding his head towards the closed door to Jack's room.

"Yes," Cas said, heaving a sigh. "I'm gonna tell him you're here. How about you change into something comfortable and have a look at the take-out menus?"

"Sure babe," Dean said with a smile, wheeling his travelling suitcase to Cas room. Cas knocked at Jack's door, opening it a moment later. Jack was sitting on his bed, scrolling on his phone. Cas felt a pang of sadness seeing the suitcases and bags all packed up. Jack's room was small compared to what he had at Luke's, the walls bare and the furniture still looking brand new and unused. And now even the little ornaments Jack had were gone, probably tucked away in one of the bags. Jack looked up at him.

"Dean's here. He's just getting changed and then we'll be having something for dinner."

"Can we have pizza?" Jack asked right away, his expression brightening. He put his phone away and jumped up on his feet. Cas smiled at him, stepping outside so Jack could follow. Dean walked into the living room not long after, wearing his pajamas, looking quite a bit more comfortable.

"Dean!" Jack called and walked up to him for a hug. "I'm so glad you came!"

"Of course. I'm not gonna miss your big day!" Dean answered, hugging back until Jack was happy to let him go again, a wide, happy grin on his face.

Cas set about ordering pizzas for them and once they were here they all settled out on the balcony which was a tight squeeze but the evening was nice and still reasonably warm and Cas took the chance to have both of his boys together like this again.   

"And? You nervous, kid?" Dean asked.

"No!" Jack answered with a smile, then he licked the grease off his fingers before taking another slice of pizza. "Claire said college life is great. She found a lot of friends there. I hope I'll make friends too!"

"Of course you will," Castiel assured him though secretly he did worry about that. Neither Dean nor Jack seemed to be concerned about that though and they continued to chat lively about the upcoming move. Cas tried to be as excited as they were, but he did have that uncomfortable feeling of regret and impending sadness in the pit of his stomach.

The unsettling feeling continued even as a new day dawned. The moment enough awareness had dawned on him to remember what today was, Cas slammed his eyes closed again and turned towards Dean, curling up against his back, willing to just have some more minutes of denial.

But Dean did stir not long after.

"Hmm? Spooning in the morning?" Dean asked, his voice warm and rough from sleep. Cas didn't reply, so Dean slowly turned to wrap an arm around Cas, pulling him close. "You okay?"

"No," Cas said, cushioning his head on Dean's chest.

"You'll be fine," Dean promised but a part of Cas thought that Dean couldn't guarantee that, that Dean couldn't possibly know. Cas' life had revolved around Jack for so long and this was the start of the long process of untangling himself. At least it felt that way, like everything he was familiar with and that had helped him deal with the things he disliked about his life, was slipping away from him. "Cas," Dean whispered and Cas felt Dean brushing his nose over his hair, sniffing slightly. "I know you're miserable, but you've got to take this one step at a time. You're still his dad. You always will be."

"Hm," Castiel muttered. Dean tightened his hold on Cas a bit, kissing his head. "I feel like an idiot… To be this upset…"

"You gotta feel your feelings, man…" Dean said and while it maybe wasn't the most poetic encouragement, it still brought a small smile to Cas' face. "And I'm here for you. You're not gonna do this alone."

"Thank you, Dean," Cas muttered. He got a couple more moments of peace, just enjoying being held by Dean, but then the familiar sound of Jack walking around the apartment forced Cas to actually roll out of bed and start the day.

His son was very excited for what lay ahead and Cas had a hard time getting him to sit down just long enough for him to eat breakfast and later on check if he had packed everything he needed. And sure, they hadn't been in this apartment for long, but Cas still felt something (and whatever that something was, it wasn't exactly pleasant) when Jack didn't send one mournful look back at their apartment before they got down into the garage where Dean's Prius was.

"Where's the car?" Jack asked, sounding disappointed when Dean put Jack's suitcases and bags into the trunk. Dean closed the door and studied Jack.

"We're gonna be at a college, during a time when lots of people move their stuff. I don't want someone to accidentally put a scratch on Baby because they're not watching what they're doing," Dean defended his choice. It sounded sensible to Cas, but Jack was still pouting when he got into the backseat.

"It's peculiar seeing you behind the wheel of this car. It's almost like you should be wearing a suit," Cas said with a smile when they were on the road. Dean took his eyes off the street for a second to look at Cas.

"You would like that, wouldn't you? Suit and tie, suspenders… Maybe glasses? Full on nerd?" he suggested and even though he looked back at the road he tilted his head slightly to wink at Cas. Cas laughed.

"I don't know if nerd would be my first association to seeing you in your work outfit," Castiel told him honestly.

"Hm, debatable. Back in the early 2000s I had my phone strapped to my belt, you know, all sexy and powerful, always ready to work."

"In the early 2000s I had a baby attached to my chest, always ready to change a diaper, so I think you win the sexy department there," Castiel countered.

"That was me, I was the baby," Jack commented dutifully and Castiel turned to look into the backseat where Jack was clearly paying attention to their conversation while also captivated by whatever was happening on his phone.

"Yes Jack, you were my favorite accessory to wear," Cas joked which Jack did rewards with a huffed laugh.

"Hm, I don't know," Dean said, his voice dropping down a bit, which made Cas look at him. They were at a red light now and Dean took the moment to send him a look. "There are some alphas out there who find that pretty sexy." Castiel felt his cheeks burn at that, surprised by Dean's suggestive smile and wink, before he had to drive again, leaving Cas to his thoughts.

He wasn't sure what exactly Dean had meant. He didn't remember Luke being particularly enticed by him taking care of Jack and seeing him in a traditionally omega role. And when Jack had been down for the night and the scent of poopy diapers had been aired out, Luke had been appreciative. Was that what Dean meant? That some alphas liked seeing omegas in their traditional nurturing role? Did it tickle some base instinct in them? In Dean too?

And what about Cas? There was nothing sexually gratifying in him imagining how it had been to nurse and nurture Jack, but if he imagined Dean… standing in the door, looking him over, his eyes fixed on him, the soft proud glow of fatherhood soon morphing into something… baser, more feral. His green eyes dark, hungry and territorial, assured in his sexual prowess and eager to prove himself again and again.

Jack sneezed, startling Cas out of his thoughts, his heart racing.

"Sorry, something tickled my nose," Jack muttered and when Cas turned around he found Jack sniffing, then rubbing his nose in confusion.

"Uh… you alright there, Cas?" Dean wondered and Cas straightened in his seat, finding Dean's cheeks slightly red.

"Uhm…" Cas muttered with dawning horror, realizing that his thoughts ran away from him into dangerous territory, that made his scent shift. Luckily, Jack wasn't able to pick up on that fully yet, but that he noticed at all was a sign that he was clearly maturing. But Dean? Dean was a fully grown alpha in his prime, he certainly knew and understood.

"Where you thinking about me and my old phone strapped to my hip?" Dean teased and Cas reached out to box his shoulder lightly. "You were thinking about me though, right? Come on, feed my ego."

"Your ego doesn't need feeding but of course I was," Cas grumbled, then he opened the window, airing out the car.

"What?" Jack asked from the back, clearly interested in the conversation.

"I was thinking about something and my scent changed. I don't want you to continue sneezing so I'm airing it out," Castiel explained.

"Oh… Sex thoughts, I understand," Jack said sagely, nodding to himself. While Cas' face was burning and even Dean seemed somewhat uneasy, Jack's curiosity was clearly sated and he turned back to cheerfully look out of the window. They drove on in somewhat embarrassing silence, though Dean kept shooting Cas little glances, until they reached the parking lot of Jack's dorm building. As Dean had predicted, quite a few people were out and about.

Jack jumped out of the car the moment Dean had parked, while Cas tilted his head and glimpsed out of the window at what would be Jack's home for the foreseeable future. The dorm building looked nice enough.

Cas heard Dean move and a moment later, Dean's hand was gently squeezing Cas' thigh.

"You alright?" Dean wondered and Castiel nodded. Dean studied him for a while, but then he gave Cas' thigh another squeeze and got out of the car. Cas sighed and got out as well, walking to the back of the car to take one of the suitcases.

"Junior!" Castiel turned around, his heart sinking into his boots, and sure enough Luke was standing there, in his pristine white suit, casually holding on to a package with an almost comically large bow on it. Jack abandoned his attempt at getting his suitcase out and turned around as well, spotting his father right away.

"Father!" he called and swiftly walked up to Luke, who slung his free arm over the kid's shoulders, pulling him close and patting him on the shoulder.

"Is that…," Dean started and Cas heaved a sigh.

"Yes, Jack's father. I didn't know he would show up," he answered and then proceeded to take the rest of Jack's stuff out of the trunk of the car. Dean took a moment until he helped and Cas could easily tell that Dean was somewhat tense. "Hey… It'll be fine. Nothing to worry about."

"I'm not worried. But you told me enough about him that I know I don't like him," Dean explained, voice barely above a whisper. Castiel had to smile at that, then he reached out and put his hand on Dean's back.

"Thank you, Dean. I'm glad you're here," he said. Dean blinked at him in surprise, but he was quick to collect himself and both of them turned around to face Luke.

Jack was leading Luke back to the car, though he wasn't pulling at his hand like he tended to do with Dean.

"Are you ready for your big day, son?" Luke asked, receiving an enthusiastic nod from Jack. "And here we have your moving company, I suppose," he added when he and Jack stood opposite Cas and Dean and the pile of belongings they had to carry up. "Hello Castiel," Luke said, then he looked towards Dean, all charming smile. "And you must be the new boyfriend. I'm Luke, Jack's father."

"Hey, nice to meet you. I'm Dean," he said, clearly not to be outdone in the charm department, holding out his hand to shake Luke's. Dean was after all in sales and marketing, Cas supposed he knew exactly how to deal with people just like Luke.

"I didn't know you'd come today," Jack said into the silence afterwards.

"Of course I'm here to see my son take his next step to becoming a fully grown alpha!" Luke exclaimed, then he held out the present. "I'm here to support you and of course to bring you some extras." Jack's eyes widened in delight and he took the present eagerly. Since it only had a bow on it but no other packaging Jack could easily see that it was a brand-new laptop.

"Cool! Thank you!" Jack announced, then he showed it to Cas. "Look, dad!"

"We couldn't have Jack show up to class with an old model, right?" Luke said, winking at Cas, who heaved a sigh. Jack's old laptop had been perfectly fine. "You can give your old laptop to daddy. In case he's still using that clunky fossil of a computer."

"It's from 2010, it's hardly a fossil," Castiel complained, though as usual Luke wasn't really interested in getting into a conversation about it.

"Why don't you show me your new room?" Luke suggested to Jack, who was immediately on board. With Jack carrying his present and the rest of his luggage being spread between his parents and Dean, they got into the dorm building. It looked nice to Cas and even though it was very busy with parents and family helping their kids move in, it didn't feel too terribly crowded. According to the info Cas had, Jack would be in a male only dorm, with both alpha and beta students.

"I would have preferred an alpha only dorm," Luke commented when they rode the elevator up. "It would have given Jack a good environment to prove himself. And being around alphas might trigger his rut early. And you know what they say, the earlier the rut hormones set in, the stronger the alpha gets."

"I think that's just an old wives' tale," Dean commented since he wasn't the one who had had plenty of discussions with Luke about that before and knew there was no point in trying to convince Luke.

"You sure? You're an alpha, Dean. Tell me, when did you first rut?"

"Uh… With 17 I think?" Dean said and Luke pointed at him.

"And look at you. Strong specimen of an alpha, just like me," he said, then he elbowed Jack to catch his attention. "And that's what the omegas like. A man who knows how to rut."

"Oh, come on…" Castiel muttered, rolling his eyes. Luckily, Jack only seemed to be vaguely interested in this topic. He was much more interested in getting out of the elevator and to his room. He got out his key and unlocked the door. They all piled inside and Cas was surprised how spacious and nice it was. There was a small lounge area, a door that led to a bathroom and then two single rooms also closed off with a door.

"This is nice, Jack," Dean said, "doesn't look like your roommate is around yet, so does that mean you get first dibs on your room?" Jack seemed to like that idea and went to examine the rooms.

"It's a bit… measly, isn't it?" Luke said, looking around with his nose slightly wrinkled.

"No it isn't. It's nice," Cas argued but Luke just heaved a sigh, putting his hands on his hips, studying the place with distaste.

"If he had gone to my college then I would have arranged something good for him," he said, disregarding Cas' comment. Jack came out of the room he had clearly chosen for himself and Luke grinned, pointing at him. "But don't you worry, son. I've contacted all the relevant people here, made them aware that Jack Kline is here, so if anything at all comes up, you tell your father and I'll take care of it, yes?"

"Sure!" Jack agreed, which seemed to appease Luke. Dean walked up to Cas.

"Wow," he mumbled. "And I thought you were the helicopter parent." Cas scoffed at him, but then Jack decided that he wanted to unpack everything and get it all nice and lived in. Cas went to help Jack and because his bedroom wasn't quite made to have four people in it bumping into each other, Luke and Dean decided to stay out.

"Let's give Cassie some more time to mother Jack," Luke said, waving his hand dismissively. "Why not make some small talk? I certainly want to know just who the new alpha hanging out around my son is."

"Sure," Dean said amicably. He knew the type of guy Luke was, he had dealt with him in countless meetings. He wouldn't let the guy rattle him.

"Jack's not been very forthcoming about what your job is," he said, looking Dean up and down, probably scrutinizing the cost of his outfit. Dean was wearing what Mary fondly called the family's very own version of lumberjack chic. He never bothered dressing up when he was with Cas, since they usually didn't have time to go out on a date.

"I'm the senior VP of marketing and sales at Sandover Bridge and Iron," Dean said, showing Luke a toothy grin when the guy seemed to be surprised by that. Though Luke wasn't one to be easily intimidated by Dean either. Dean felt a bit ridiculous, like he was having a pissing contest with the other dude. It didn't matter what Luke thought, not really, and he didn't have to prove himself to him or anyone.

"Oh alright. Color me impressed. Cassie does seem to have a taste for strong alphas with high paying jobs, huh?" Luke said, a glint in his eyes that Dean didn't quite like. "But strapping alpha like you, are you sure you can't do better? Do you really want to be tied down to Cassie? Can't you do better in the omega department than a 40 something guy with a kid?"

"Better?" Dean asked, incredulous. "Just because you couldn’t see how amazing and devastatingly handsome Cas is, doesn't mean that I'm also that blind." Other than react to Dean's anger, Luke just lifted his hands, waving at him.

"Oh, lighten up, Dean. It's not like I care," he said and Dean frowned at him. "Castiel and me might be through, but he did pop out a great kid. True, Jack's a bit… hm…" Luke pursed his lips. "Let's say soft and sweet. But going to college will turn him into a proper alpha."

"A proper alpha?" Dean asked. "Sounds like you might need to go more with the times. Jack is just a kid and what it means to be an alpha today is different than when we were growing up." Dean had expected all kinds of reactions, but that Luke would start laughing hadn't been so high on his list.

"Well!" Luke exclaimed, crossing his arms over his chest, his look challenging. "If you think that then I sure am glad that you don't seem like the kind of guy who really manages to keep a relationship going next to your high-profile job." Dean tensed at that, though he tried to keep himself relaxed. "Surely you won't be influencing my kid too much."

"I'll be happy to prove you wrong," Dean told him and he wasn't too proud that he forced it out through gritted teeth. Luckily for him, their stand-off was cut short by Jack and Cas coming back out of the bedroom.

"Everything okay here?" Cas said, quickly able to notice the tension in the room.

"Sure! I think I'll be heading back home now. You good, son?" Luke asked and Jack nodded with a big grin. "Gentlemen, if you will excuse me. I do have an early day tomorrow." With that he nodded at everyone and left. The moment the door closed after him, Dean breathed in deeply, finally allowing himself to relax a bit.

"I think I'd like some milkshakes now!" Jack declared before Dean really had the time to work through the short conversation with Luke.

"Sure!" Dean said, putting up a cheerful grin and wrapping his arm around Cas to pull him close, getting him to displace his worried frown.

Something was going on with Dean and Cas was sure that Luke must have said something annoying to him. But Dean clearly wasn’t in the mood to share and maybe it wasn't that big of a deal anyway. Cas had to put that aside and focus on Jack, who continued to chat excitedly all the way through their milkshakes.

"Should we take a look around town, maybe grab dinner later?" Cas offered, when Jack was finishing his shake. The boy licked his lips and then shook his head.

"I already have plans for today!" he announced, taking Cas by surprise.

"You've just arrived and you already have plans?" Dean asked to clarify, finding words quicker than Cas did. Jack nodded.

"There are some chat groups with other new students that I joined. We've been talking for weeks! And we're gonna meet up for burger and fries!" he explained, then he showed Cas his phone. "I've put together a list of things I want to do and places I want to visit!"

"Oh… That's nice," Cas said and even though he knew he should try harder, he had a hard time concealing his disappointment. He felt Dean's hand press against the small of his back, a comforting weight, that at least allowed him to smile at his son. Jack's bright smile dimmed however. A small frown appeared on his brow and he put down his phone.

"But… if possible," he started, looking from Cas to Dean. "I would like to see you again on Sunday? Maybe Grandma Millie will make us pancakes?"

Dean had to laugh at that and even Cas smiled.

"Yes, sure. We can do that," Dean promised and Jack leaned back in his chair with a pleased smile.

Even though Cas knew he was going to see Jack again on the very next day, he still felt unsettled as he watched Jack hug Dean good-bye.

"I'll give you a moment," Dean whispered as he passed Cas, then he got into his car. Cas hesitated, but he did walk up to Jack. Jack was smiling at him, one of his big, sincere smiles, that always had Cas melt. He heaved a sigh and wrapped his arms around Jack, pulling him close. He breathed in his familiar scent and Jack's nose brushed his neck too, cuddling and sniffing.

"I know you're worried about me," Jack said, his voice slightly muffled, but Cas wasn't going to let him out of the hug just yet. "And that you feel weird about not seeing me all the time."

"Yes I do," Cas said and with a heavy sigh, he finally let go of Jack, though the boy didn't really go far, happily remaining within Cas' personal space. "I know that is a very important part of your life, a start of something new, but it's hard to see this as anything but an ending for me."

"I get it. Claire and I talked a lot about it," Jack said. "I can't really make that go away… But I can tell you that you don't need to worry about me. I will be fine. And you will be too."

"I know, Jack…," Cas said with a small smile.

"And it's okay to be sad, right? That's what you always tell me. It's okay to feel things," Jack said, tilting his head. "Right?"

"Of course," Cas answered, reaching out to wipe Jack's errant hair out of his face. Jack grinned up at him.

"And maybe now you and Dean get to spend more time together?" Jack suggested. "You do like him, don't you?" The question took Cas by surprise but he only took a moment to nod.

"Yes, Jack. I really like him," he said and turned slightly to look at the car. Dean was leaning back in his car, hands on the wheel, but he was looking at them, sending Cas a thumbs up when he met Cas' eyes. Cas felt his chest burn warmly at that, the familiar excitement tickling through him. "I really, really like him."

"That's good! And I'm not too far away, maybe we can meet some weekends? And who knows… if you really get too lonely… maybe you and Dean can try to have a baby?" Cas was surprised that his neck didn't crack with how fast he looked away from Dean to stare at his son.

"Uh…" he muttered, unsure how to continue. Jack's expression was open an earnest, maybe even a tad too serious for this. "I'm not going to have a baby just because I miss you." Jack nodded at that, his serious face remaining.

"Good. I wouldn't like being replaced," he admitted which had Cas laugh despite his confusion at the turn the conversation had taken. "But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't like having a little brother or sister." Cas studied his son and it was clear that he was serious about this.

"Alright, Jack. I will remember your words," he vowed and Jack's face changed back to a smile.

"Will you be alright?" he asked eventually when he was ready to say good-bye and Cas nodded at him. They hugged once more and then Jack dashed off into his dorm building to get ready to meet his online friends. Cas watched him leave, then he breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. He turned around and walked back to the car.

"How are you?"

"A bit sad, but it's alright," Cas admitted and he found that it was actually true. Maybe it would be worse if he went back home and Jack wasn't there. But he would probably get used to that too. He had to.

"Well, what do you say about us going back to Pontiac. I treat you to a nice dinner and then we fuck," Dean suggested, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively before he turned the key.

"On a full stomach?"

"So we watch some TV and then we fuck, easy solution. Since there are no teens in the house, we can even do it on the couch," Dean amended easily, grinning at Cas. Castiel laughed but agreed. He was determined not to overthink his feelings. Yes, Jack was now off to college, but he wasn't gone, he wasn't far away. And Cas would learn how to deal.

Castiel was fussing with his collar, nervously waiting for Jack to come out to the car. It was Sunday morning now and they were both waiting in the parking lot, in the crisp morning air. Dean had a take away cup of coffee and he had had it pressed to his lips for the better part of five minutes now, which made Cas wonder if he was intent on inhaling the coffee vapors or if maybe he had decided to fall asleep with his nose inside the coffee cup.

They had been up for quite a while, despite getting an early dinner at a pizza place. Dean had dropped off pretty quickly after sex, citing his need to drive as an apology for his lack of post-orgasm attention. Dean had mentioned driving up to Kansas after breakfast but Cas wasn't sure if he meant it. It was already 9 AM and they would be at Millie Winchester's house for at least two hours. Did Dean really want to make that long drive just to see his parents for a short while?

"Hey!" Jack called, jogging up towards them with a big grin on his face. Cas looked him over quickly, but he seemed perfectly fine, his hair was combed and all his clothes were on the right way.

"Hey, kid. Did you have fun yesterday?" Dean asked. Jack nodded and easily burrowed himself into Cas' hug, before he went to Dean for one as well. Dean put his cup of coffee on the hood of his car, then he hugged Jack, patting him on the back for good measure.

"Yes! It's cool here! But I'm starving now," Jack confessed, which had Cas lift his eyebrow.

"Didn't you eat dinner yesterday?" he asked, but Jack already climbed into the car. Cas heaved a sigh, then he and Dean got in as well. It didn't take long to drive to Dean's grandma's house, but Jack was happy to fill the 10-minute drive with talk about what he and his new friends had been up to and what they planned to do today.

Dean parked the car in the driveway of a two-story house. It looked nice, with flower boxes and a clean exterior. They all got out of the car and Dean led them up the path, ringing the bell. It took a moment but then an older woman opened the door. She wore a floral print dress and a big smile on her face. She was freckled and had the same green eyes Dean did.

"Dean!" she said, opening her arms and pulling him in, kissing Dean's cheek. "It's so good to see you, kid!"

"You too, grandma," he said and then he stepped to the side, still keeping a hand on her, to present Jack and Cas. "Grandma Millie, this is Cas, my boyfriend. And Jack, his son, who was promised pancakes."

"And pancakes he shall receive," Millie said, then she beckoned both Cas and Jack closer and gave them both a hug. "Come on in! Don’t let all the warm air out!"

"Thank you for having us," Castiel said politely, following Millie through the house into an inviting dining room. The table was already set and Millie told them to take a seat while she grabbed the breakfast out of the kitchen.

"You look younger than I assumed," Jack blurted out when Millie was back, which made Cas frown lightly at his son's lack of tact. But Millie merely laughed at him.

"I'm not that young. I had Dean's dad when I was very young. But it was different times then," Millie said, putting a huge plate piled with pancakes on the table. "Always use protection, that's my motto now unless you want a kid." She winked at Dean. Dean rolled her eyes at her fondly. Millie put some pancakes on her plate then she looked at Cas.

"You are an omega, Cas, right?" Millie asked, taking Cas by surprise.

"Uhm, yes, ma'am."

"Millie will do. Or Grandma Millie," she told him softly, then she held out her hand. "Hand me your plate, will you?"

"Oh… Uh, of course," he said and held out the plate. Millie put a stack of pancakes on his plate.

"So, an old person lesson for our young Jack," Millie said and Jack straightened at once, attentive. "You see, my family has always been very traditional. We always had a hierarchy when it got to food. Omegas are served first. If you want to be a good alpha, you best remember that." Jack nodded dutifully and received his own stack of pancakes as a reward.

"Thank you, Grandma Millie," he chirped and soon they all tucked into their food. The pancakes were really as good as promised and Millie was as intent on feeding Jack as he had been warned, happy to give him another serving.

"Now, you two. How long have you been together?" Millie wondered, propping her elbows on the table and linking her fingers.

"Two months," Dean said and Millie lifted her eyebrows. "It's kinda new."

"You know I'm not one to judge," Millie told him, "I knew Henry was the one the moment we met. And I'm glad that we didn't hesitate to do what felt right to us." She looked from Dean to Cas. "I assume you're finding yourself in the same position."

"Yes," Castiel said, without thinking about it too much. "It feels right to me," he amended, not wanting to speak for Dean. But Dean did reach out and put his hand over Cas', prompting him to look towards him. Dean was smiling at him, giving him a nod.

"I do think that's very sweet. You know your parents were getting worried about you, Dean," Millie said with a smile. Dean heaved a sigh.

"Why are they worried about Dean though?" Jack wondered, licking the maple syrup off his lips.

"John and Mary have been together since they were 17. Sam and his sweetheart Jess have been together since they were 19. Dean's merely the odd one out simply because he had shorter relationships."

"And what's so bad about that?" Jack wondered, "Claire, my cousin, told me that it's perfectly fine to have many partners before you settle down with someone, or even to never settled down. Or to have no partner at all as a matter of fact."

"Claire is a clever lady," Dean argued. "But my parents claim that it's not good for me to have no one in my life, because they think I need someone to take care of me. Make sure I eat all my veggies and don't work too much."

"Maybe you should listen to me then if I tell you to eat your veggies," Cas joked, which had Dean stick out his tongue at him.

"If I understood Dean correctly, Jack's going to college here and Cas lives close-bye as well, which is why you're both here," Millie said after a while. "Are you going to move to Illinois as well, Dean?"

"Oh… Uh… No… I'm still working at Sandover and it doesn't look like they're opening a branch here anytime soon," Dean explained and Cas could tell that the question made him uneasy. Millie sighed dramatically.

"Oh, what a shame. I sadly don't see a whole lot of my kids and grandkids in person. It can get a bit lonely here."

"I'm sorry grandma," Dean muttered.

"I'd be happy to visit you, Grandma Millie," Jack announced, "you've been very kind to offer me pancakes and I'd love to see you again." Millie looked at him in surprise, but then she chuckled, reaching out to ruffle Jack's hair.

"You're such a sweet boy! I'd love to see you again too," she told him then she grinned at Dean and Cas. "Would you look at that, Dean did give me a great-grandchild. I have to call Josie later and tell her I won our bet."

Castiel wasn't exactly surprised by his son's claim of Millie, since he was generally quick to get attached, but that Millie was so accepting of this within such a short amount of time was rather unusual. But welcome. Cas knew where his heart was and Millie's easy acceptance that Dean and Cas were sure about their relationship was refreshing.

"You're always welcome to come over as well, Cas," Millie assured him when they were leaving, taking his hands into hers and giving them a soft squeeze. "You're family. And I'm an old lady who likes to talk."

"Thank you, Millie," Cas answered, happily accepting the hug she gave him.

"I've got another bet going on with Josie," Millie whispered in his ear, "I just know that Dean's gonna have a little girl, breaking Winchester traditions of first-born sons." She let go of him and Castiel looked down at her in surprise. Millie winked and patted his upper arms. "But you know. Josie might say it doesn’t count. She's always been a bit of stickler for rules."

"Hm? What doesn't count?" Dean wondered, opening the door of his car.

"Nothing, sweetie! Have a safe journey," Millie sang, then she sent Cas another conspiratorial grin, before she pinched Jack's cheek and went back into her house.

"All set?" Dean asked when everybody was in the car. Cas was still processing Millie's words, but then he shook his head and put on his seat belt. "I'll drive you back to campus, okay? Can you catch a bus back home from there, Cas?"

"Do you really want to go visit your parents? It's already half past 10 and it's a more than a 6-hour drive there and a 10-hour drive back to your place."

"I took Monday morning off," Dean explained. "I'll just have some pie, take a power-nap and I'll be back to get my four hours of sleep in before work."

"Dean… That's not sustainable," Castiel told him, but Dean shot him a look. "You said so yourself… You're tired."

"I know, but I have to put in the effort Cas. I've neglected my relationships, I've neglected my family… I have to change things. I want to change things," he said firmly. Castiel sighed. "Don't sigh at me, babe. It's fine, trust me."

"Okay, Dean…" Castiel said, though he didn't quite feel it was okay. But he couldn't force Dean to talk, especially not after how well the meeting with Millie had gone. He just had to do what Dean said and trust him. And Cas had his own issues to worry about after all.

"Text me when you get back home safe?" Cas asked once they were back at Jack's dorm, leaning into the open car window to kiss Dean good-bye.

"Of course. You too," Dean said. "And hey," he called, holding on to Cas hand when he withdrew from the window. "You're going to be fine. Jack's just a short drive away. And you can always call me if you get lonely." Castiel smiled at him.

"Thank you, Dean. And you can too. About anything that's weighing on you." Dean nodded, then he pulled Cas' hand to his lips to kiss his knuckles.

"See you soon," Dean promised. Jack and Cas waved at him, watching him pull out of the parking lot and disappear into traffic.

"That was nice," Jack decided, then he looked up at Cas. "Right?"

"Yes," Cas told him, but there was still a nagging worry in the back of his head.


Chapter Text

After three beers Cas was pretty sure that he disliked his apartment. He had been living here for 2 months now and it still felt hollow. As much as tight space could actually feel hollow. It made a lot of sense to Cas three bottles into his six-pack of beer in any case. It was small and hollow and nothing quite matched, nothing felt much like home. It might as well have been another motel room, for all the sense of comfort it brought him. No wonder Jack had spent most of his time inside his room or outside of the apartment. And now it was even getting too cool to hang out on the balcony. The only thing Cas liked about the apartment was the scent of Jack, soon to be aired out and the combined scents of him and Dean, still saturating his bedroom. So this was where Cas was moping, bottle three having done no good to his already bad mood. He had to work on Monday, so he shouldn't be staring at the ceiling at this time of the night but who cared. He hated his job anyway. And someone was bound to come up to him and carelessly pour salt into Cas' wounds by asking him how he liked his new freedom.

His new freedom could definitely fuck off.

Cas hated his job and he hated his apartment and he knew he was being a dramatic asshole, but he also hated whatever neighbor thought it was a good idea to make a ruckus at the door at – Cas heaved himself to the side, squinting at his phone – 12:34.

Wait a moment…

Castiel sat up, listening in on the sounds. Someone was at the door. Cas quickly got up from his bed and rushed to the door. He didn't care that he was in his underwear, especially not when he looked through the peephole and saw what he was pretty sure was a familiar looking side of a head. Cas quickly unlocked his door and opened it, having Dean almost drop into his arms.

"Sorry, wasn't sure if you were awake," Dean said, then he sniffed. "You got into the beers?"

"Yes, I got into the beers," Cas confirmed, then he took a step back, letting Dean in. He closed the door after him and studied Dean, his tipsiness not able to suppress his worry.

"Uh… Sorry for showing up so late," Dean muttered, rubbing the back of his head sluggishly. "I just couldn't drive anymore. I'm dead tired… I thought… maybe before I crash my car and leave you a widower before we even got married, I could…" Dean made some weird, uncoordinated gesture with his hands. But it was enough for Cas to go up to him and hug him, feeling Dean slump against him at once. "Sorry, just four hours. I'll be gone before you know it."

"Nonsense. You said you had Monday morning off."

"I lied," Dean muttered and Cas shook his head at him and managed to get him to his bedroom.

"Mom actually didn't have a pie for me this time… Don't know… maybe didn't expect me even though I said I'd come…" Dean continued talking and Cas wondered if he was mostly asleep with how slurred his voice sounded. "Got me one from the bakery… It actually tasted better… Don't tell her I said that."

"I won't," Cas promised. Dean groaned when he got to lie down and was out before Cas could even get his shoes off. Castiel took off his shoes and whatever clothes he could with Dean being relatively uncooperative, then he straightened and looked down at him. Dean was sprawled out, dead to the world. He really couldn't have driven any further, he probably already pushed himself more than he should. And sure, Dean was an alpha and alphas could push themselves but this wasn't good… Castiel climbed into bed with Dean, pulling the blanket over them and cuddling into his side.

Slowly, Cas' worried, circling thoughts were calming and a sense of contentment was replacing the hollow feeling inside of him.

Cas shot up when his alarm started blaring, startling him out of deep slumber. He turned it off, seeing that it was 7:30 AM. He frowned at the time, then he looked around. He hadn't just dreamed Dean's surprise visit, had he? He got up and walked out of his room. Dean wasn't here, but there was a little box on his table, with a post-it on it.

"Thank you ♥" was all it said and when Cas lifted the lid of the box, he found there to be croissants and pastries from the bakery Cas liked. Dean must have walked there and back to get this for Cas, even though he could have spent the time sleeping.

"Damnit, Dean," Cas muttered, worry and adoration warring inside of him. Dean was probably still driving, but he made sure to send him a text.

"You're so sweet. Have a great day at work. ♥" It wouldn't do Dean any good for Cas to tell him that he should have slept some more or that he worried about him. Dean could get defensive quickly, so this was a conversation they'd better have when Dean was rested.

Cas second alarm started ringing, letting him know that if he didn't get a move on, he'd have to go to work in his pajamas.

No matter what Dean did, he felt like he couldn't quite get his batteries recharged. Monday morning had been bad enough and he'd endured many wordless, judgmental looks from Tessa from the moment he came into the office 20 minutes late. Not that anybody paid any attention besides Tessa, but that was beside the point. Dean was never late, but that wasn't even the point either, actually more of the issue if Dean knew how to read the complex language of Tessa's squints right.

But Dean did get through Monday morning, also thanks to Cas' text message, and then the days finally started to flow by in their usual way. Still, Dean felt he was just slightly off. It didn't affect his work, that he was sure of, but he was unsettled whenever he took a break (so he decided to work through them most of the time or spend them talking to his team) and it felt increasingly bad when he was at home. He did everything like he usually did, but it was like something big and heavy had taken up residence in his head, that accompanied him whatever he did.

He knew he should probably talk to someone about it, Cas for example, but Cas had enough on his own plate, what with how Jack's move to college had rattled him. So he let it be, said he was fine and got Cas to talk about Jack instead. He wasn't sure how long Cas would allow the distraction but so far Cas had enough thoughts about Jack that needed out that he didn't yet push. Maybe he was gearing himself up to a loving lecture for the weekend, but Dean unfortunately wouldn't get to find out about it.

Dean had a work commitment coming up this weekend, which involved a business trip to Seattle for a big construction project kick off, so he had already warned his parents and Cas that he wouldn't be able to make the trip. He'd probably be working in the Seattle office for a while, catching up with the head of sales and marketing there to make sure all branches were doing what he told them to do. It would be quite a busy couple of days.

"I do worry about you, Dean," Cas told him on Wednesday evening. Dean had his phone lying next to his plate, shoving around the broccoli with his fork.

"Why? I'm eating my veggies. In fact, half my plate is veggies."

"Is it now?" he heard Cas say, his worried tone momentarily replaced by amusement.

"Yes. I'm cutting out carbs in the evening. I'd like a burger, believe me, but I've got to be sharp."

"Sharp, Dean? You're already very fit," Cas told him. "Is this one of those alpha health tips from the magazines?"

"Yeah! You reading alpha health magazines now, Cas?" Dean teased. "Luke didn't actually look like he would be into that stuff."

"No, he wasn't, but he read them to be sure to get Jack the best alpha appropriate diet. I did veto putting a 14-year-old on an adult alpha diet though. And I'm not sure it's good for you either," Cas cautioned. Dean rolled his eyes, not that Cas could see it.

"Don't worry, babe. I've talked it through with my GP, it's all good. And you should be glad, because I'm eating broccoli now." Well, technically he was merely pushing it around the plate, trying to hype himself up to eat it, but Cas didn't have to know that. He heard Cas heave a big sigh over the phone and Dean had a feeling that he was gearing himself up for some sort of parental commentary. Dean quickly shifted gears. "The Seattle deal is already made, but I hope to network there and land us some other deals. I'm trying to push Sandover to lessen its ecological foot-print and use more partners who are focused on renewable energy. But it's expensive and the bosses are dinosaurs…"

"That's commendable, Dean," Cas said and Dean had to smile at the phone. "But I still worry about you." Dean sighed, putting down his fork. "I'm your boyfriend, I can't help it."

"Why do you worry about me, Cas?" Dean asked, not sure he wanted to have this conversation but he also wasn't willing to just dismiss Cas' emotions.

"I worry that you're putting too much on your plate," Cas told him, his voice soft and concerned, melting the block of tension in Dean's chest.

"I can happily cut out the broccoli, I don't need them on my plate," Dean joked but Cas just said his name in that warning way of his and Dean's fake smile slipped.

"You are going above and beyond to be present and I really, really appreciate it Dean. Getting to spend time with you is wonderful. But you push yourself too hard. You don't have to drive 20 hours every weekend…" Dean shook his head.

"Cas, it's fine. I just need to get back into my routine and then things will be alright." Cas sighed. "I'm a big boy."

"I do know that. But I care about you and want you to be alright," Cas told him sincerely. "So if you are not alright… please tell me and we'll work it out." Dean leaned back in his chair, looking at his phone.

"Okay… Alright," he said evasively. "I'll be missing you this weekend when I'm in Seattle. What are you even going to do without me?"

"Hm, I don't know. Maybe I'll meet Anna. Go hiking a bit," Cas said and Dean happily listened to Cas' weekend plans, letting himself be calmed by his voice. Yeah, they'd be fine. Dean was sure of it.

Seattle had been great but as always a business trip involved a huge amount of work before, during and after the main event. Having been able to strike up productive conversations, he received permission from HQ to stay at the Seattle branch to court another big potential client and connect with contractors selling cables for solar panels. One weekend away became two and by his return on Tuesday Dean was tired and almost half afraid of looking at his phone. Dean had always made time to check his phone in the evening, read up on what was happening in the Winchester family chat and connect with Cas. He had sent some inquiries to Jack to get a feel of how the kid was doing at college but Jack was pretty unreliable with his answers, but at least he seemed to be having a good time and he was showing his face at Grandma Millie's at least once a week.

Dean had felt pretty good in Seattle, even though he had been busy, but the moment he was back behind his desk in Ohio, he felt off-kilter again. He tried to ignore it and work through it, but it simply persisted. Cas sent him a text during lunch time, reminding him to think to eat, but Dean merely looked at it, felt that dark and heavy feeling inside of him expand and expand, so he turned the phone screen down on the table. He ignored the salad Tessa had put on his desk and he said a cheerful good-bye to her when she frowned into his office at 5 PM. When he got home from work at 10 PM he fell straight into bed and thought of nothing.

He woke up with a hole inside his stomach and a fuzzy head.

"Ugh, get a grip," he muttered to himself and sluggishly started his morning routine. He had breakfast and a cup of coffee in front of him when he remembered that he hadn't checked his phone in hours. There were a couple of new messages. A missed call and some texts by Cas were what he was actually concerned about.

"I watched the movie you told me, Tombstone. I'm still not sure I see the appeal of cowboys, but I will gladly accept further recommendations. I tend to get a bit bored in the evenings." Cas had texted after Dean failed to pick up his phone.

"Anna suggested I try my hand at a creative hobby," Cas had sent afterwards, along with a picture of… a potato, Dean assumed. There had been no further text from Cas after that and Dean felt guilt burn through him.

"Sorry Cas, it's been crazy at work," he texted. "Is it a potato?" He knew that Cas wasn't usually up as early as Dean was, so Dean didn't expect a reply anytime soon. He decided to answer to his family chat later and allow himself a small detour to the nice coffee place before work.

By the time he was at his desk, ready to start his work day, his phone alerted him to a new text from Cas.

"Nooooo. It's a guinea pig!" Cas said. Dean frowned, opening the picture again and squinting at it.

"Guinea pig…?" he muttered, trying to figure out if he had to put the picture on its head to find any resemblance with the animal.

"Clearly, I've got a long journey ahead of myself if I want to pursue art…," Cas said, then Dean's phone pinged again as a new snapshot of another blob came in. "It's a bee."

"Sure, buddy," Dean typed back, quietly chuckling to himself.

"Have a good day at work, Dean."

"Thanks 🍯 you too!"


Dean's mood held on a reasonably high level until about midday, when he had a lunch scheduled with Charlie, who had claimed to be in the area and in dire need of seeing her favorite handmaiden again.

"Dude, it's been months! Don't be a stranger!" she argued when Dean met her at the restaurant where she had booked them a table. She boxed his shoulder lightly in reprimand, then she pulled him into a firm hug. "You alright?"

"Yeah… Just work, as always," Dean hedged. Charlie narrowed her eyes at him, studying him intently, but in the end she shrugged and grabbed his arm, pulling him into the restaurant. It was a diner, not Dean's usually choice during a work week, but there was no denying Charlie anything.

"What brings you here, Charlie?" Dean wondered, after they had ordered their food.

"I'm networking!" she said cheerfully. "I quit my job at Roman Enterprises." Dean stared at her.

"Are you serious? Charlie, that was an amazing job!" Dean argued. Charlie huffed a laugh, her eyebrows drawing up.

"Uh, no? Sure, it paid well and I got to do interesting things, but dude, it was intense! Not to mention sexist. And I'm not like you. I can easily pack up my bags and change work. I don't have -" here Charlie paused and exaggeratedly rolled her eyes, "- corporate pack loyalty." She made a fart noise and put her thumb down. Dean wrinkled his nose.

"So what now?"

"I've got a couple of gigs to tide me over, don't you worry about me. Besides, as I said. I'm networking," Charlie said. "And I'm sure I could drop your name too. High profile marketing person like you…" Dean opened his mouth to argue, but their server was back with their orders. Charlie tucked in right away, moaning with her mouth full.

"This is good!" she said enthusiastically, then she motioned towards Dean's plate. "Eat!" Dean heaved a sigh but followed her orders. The burger did taste amazing. "And tell me. What's up with you? How are you and the boyfriend doing?"

"We're good," Dean said and Charlie put her elbows on the table, leaning forwards.

"That's all? Come on, give me some juicy details," Charlie begged. "Like, how are you dealing with the distance?"

"That's hardly a juicy detail, that's pretty much the opposite of juicy," Dean complained. Charlie tilted her head at him. "And I usually drive up to see him. I haven't been in a while because of work. I was in Seattle the last two weekends."

"Yes, I know, I tried to score a lunch date with you last week but Tessa told me you were away," she said and Dean picked up on that right away. Tessa and Charlie, on the phone? That was dangerous. And when he looked up he did see Charlie study him. "She said you were being… very busy. And I'm not talking about the skipped lunches and leaving the office after 9PM." Dean merely shrugged, not in the mood to defend himself but still feeling irritated that he most likely would have to. "She told me you drive over 20 hours every weekend. Just to see Cas and also your parents." Again, Dean shrugged. "Dean, that's not reasonable."

"What does that matter? I want to do it," Dean argued, taking Charlie by surprise. "I've messed up so many relationships because I couldn't make time for my partner, because I wasn't willing to put in the time and effort to even get them to connect with my family. I don't want that with Cas. I don’t want to mess it up again!"

"Dean, this isn't about messing it up, this is about you finding a good balance. What you do now, that's just masochistic!" Dean scoffed at that. "No, really! What you need, Dean, are boundaries!" Dean shook his head at Charlie and she pointed her finger at him sternly. "Sure, you're into Cas and sure you want to prove that you are husband material, but you've got to do that in a reasonable way. In a way that doesn't mean that you completely sacrifice every free minute of your day."

"You done now?" Dean asked and Charlie huffed. "Because I'd really like to eat this burger without you lecturing me."

"I'm just being a voice of reason," Charlie argued, but Dean merely shook his head at her, eating his food. "Stubborn alpha-headed idiot," she grumbled, but at least she let Dean be and instead started trash-talking her former boss. And this was just right with Dean, because there wasn't anything he could tell Charlie at this point. He'd be making the drive down to Pontiac again this weekend, no matter how tired he was, and he would see Cas and he would feel amazing, and then he'd go to his parents to prove to them how serious he still was about changing things. And he would prove that little voice of doubt in the back of his head wrong that tried to tell him that Luke had been right, that he wouldn't manage a relationship after all, that he'd lose Cas and the happiness he felt when he was with him.

And yet…

The closer the weekend came, the more Dean dreaded it. The thought of packing his suitcase and taking it to work, of getting into his car and driving, of bliss with Cas for a day and then driving, driving, driving. It was like he was walking around with a heavy weight lodged in his chest.

Inevitably, his parents sent him a text on Friday asking when to expect him. He ignored that one, because it was time to work and Adler again wanted to talk about the cost of clean energy and local manufactures. But then during lunch Cas called and he ignored that one too, like a coward, pretty much rushing out of the office to get lunch in the cafeteria.

"What's up with you?" one of Dean's work colleagues asked, laughing when Dean stabbed his salad.

"Maybe trouble in paradise with his partner," someone else contributed, in a sing-song voice.

"Who, Adler?" The other people at the table laughed at the well-aimed joke even though it merely caused Dean an awful tugging inside of him.

Dean did send them a perfunctory smile and they didn't really need more engagement from him anyway. He excused himself early after he ate his salad and went back up to find that Cas had sent him a selfie, posing with a burger.

"Burger date this weekend?" Cas asked, followed by another text: "Jack even promised to give us two hours of his time if he's allowed to choose the restaurant." Dean stared at the message for a long time and then he got a phone call he had to take and still hadn't found the right words to answer Cas' message. He wanted to see Cas, more than anything, but…

"Sorry, babe… There's stuff I have to do over the weekend. Rain check?" he typed before he really could stop and think about it. Cas sent him back an umbrella emoji not long after. Dean felt relief at that, like he had avoided a crisis, at least for the moment. After that he continued to work with the fog somewhat lifted. He made good progress, had some cheerful conversation with his work colleagues and even managed to leave the office at a reasonable 6PM.

But then he got home and like a swarm of birds, his thoughts descended upon him the second he sat down on his couch to relax. He felt his phone inside his pant pocket, heavy like it was a cursed artefact taunting him. He pulled it out and looked at it. The black screen lit up once he clicked the button, showing a photo of him and Cas in Florida, kissing over their colorful drinks.

"Fuck," Dean hissed, overwhelmed by guilt and anger and exhaustion. He knew exactly what he was doing, he knew exactly that withdrawing from his family and relationships wasn't going to fix anything at all about what was currently going wrong. He opened Cas' contact and dialed before he could shy away from it. Luckily, Cas was quick to pick up.

"Hello, Dean," Cas said, his voice warm and the sound of relief carried over the line, making Dean feel like an even bigger asshole.

"Hey Cas," he said. "Sorry I've been a stranger."

"You haven't been, Dean. You have nothing to feel sorry about. But it's so good to hear your voice," Cas told him.

"You too, Cas," Dean said and heaved a sigh. "Listen… Cas… I have to apologize."

"What? No-"

"Yeah I have, please listen," Dean interrupted Cas.

"Of course, sorry," Cas said, his voice serious. "What did you want to say?"

"I lied earlier… I actually don't have to work this weekend," Dean admitted tiredly. "I just said that because I didn't want to disappoint you… Because I'm just so tired, Cas… I'm so sorry, I just can't make the drive today…"

"Oh," Castiel said and Dean rubbed his eyes. They were burning. God. He really was tired.

"Yeah… I know it was a dick move of me. I should just have told you… I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm just… overwhelmed or something, I don’t know." Dean put his hand on his head, leaning back on his couch.

"Dean… it's okay. Don't put this on yourself. I'd much prefer for you to be able to tell me that you're not feeling okay, than to push yourself just to make me happy."

"I do want to make you happy though, Cas," Dean said and he knew he sounded kind of whiney.

"And you do, Dean. Even when I don't see you, knowing that you're there and that you're mine is plenty to make me happy," Cas assured him.

"You're a sap," Dean muttered. "But same…" Castiel chuckled and Dean felt some of the tension inside of him ease. "So… what now?"

"Now I suggest that you either rest this weekend, see how you feel next week and what we can do to improve the situation. Or I make the drive up," Cas answered. Dean widened his eyes.

"You'd drive to Dayton?"

"Yes, why not? I'm free and I'd love to see you," Cas said.

"But what about your burger date with Jack? Don't you want to meet up with him?" Dean asked. Cas huffed.

"Yes, but I'd much rather come up to visit you, as soon as possible," Castiel answered firmly. "I want to see you and it sounds like you need a bit of company."

"Uhm… yeah… Okay. Cas, that'd be great, thank you," Dean managed to say. "But don't rush. We can meet tomorrow."

"I'm packing already. You'll better be wearing comfortable pajamas when I show up," Cas told him.

"Okay," Dean mumbled.

"Lovely. See you in a couple of hours." Cas hung up his phone, leaving Dean with a weird nervous, giddy feeling. He should probably clean, or go shopping so he could cook Cas some nice midnight dinner. But before he could get up from the couch a new text came in.

"Take a nap. No cleaning or shopping or anything else"

Dean laughed, shaking his head but he did lie down on the couch.

"Okay, boss," he muttered to himself and then he closed his eyes.

Dean had given Cas a virtual tour of his apartment before, but it was different seeing it in person. There was a lobby with a guard sitting behind a desk, looking very stern when he nodded Cas through, making it all feel more like Cas was entering a hotel than an apartment building. He crossed the lobby to where the elevator was, awkwardly holding on to his bag, waving at the guard who was leaning over his desk to keep a firm eye on Cas.

Eventually he got out of the elevator into a corridor with dark carpet and grey walls with some modern artwork evenly spaced out. Dean's door was the only one on this floor. He rang the bell and was surprised by the little swoop of anxiety that seemed to lift his stomach. He knew he had nothing to be nervous for, this was his boyfriend after all, but it felt somewhat significant that he was now visiting him. Even though it shouldn't be. He shouldn't have just accepted that it was Dean who drove to see him every weekend. He should have offered to visit Dean, but he had been far too in his own head with Jack's impending departure.

Before he could revisit all the things he had endlessly thought about during the drive, Dean opened the door. Castiel felt himself sag in relief, seeing Dean apparently fine, if somewhat sleep tousled.

"Cas," Dean said, his voice sounding almost awed. Cas smiled at him until Dean made space to let him inside. "Thank you for coming." Cas put down his bag and closed the distance between him and Dean, wrapping him up in a firm hug. Dean was very warm and he smelled nice. Dean returned the hug, pulling Cas close and kissing his head. "Thank you."

Dean let go of him again after a while, quickly kissing him hello, before he took a small step back, still keeping his hand on Cas' shoulder. He wore a big, cheerful smile.

"Welcome to my home," he announced cheerfully. "Come, I'll give you the quick tour." Cas followed Dean around the very spacious, modern looking apartment. It had a high ceiling and what it lacked in walls it made up in windows. It was a typical open concept place, all white, black and chrome, with leather furniture, vaguely reminding Cas of Dean's car (baby, not his Prius). Cas peeked into the rooms Dean showed him (guest room, office, home gym, storage) but the only place he was very interested in right now was the bedroom. The bed was big, standing in the center of the room. There was a walk-in closet and a spacious bathroom. Cas put his bag down on the foot of the bed and walked over to a wall of curtains, peeking behind at the windows and door to the balcony that seemed to run the whole length from bedroom to living space.

"It's nice," Cas said and turned around, surprised to find Dean standing right behind him. Dean studied him, then he raised his hands to cradle Cas' face in his palms. "Dean?"

"Hm… Just enjoying the view of having you in my bedroom," Dean said with a grin, then he leaned down to brush his nose against Cas, before kissing him softly.

"Let me get ready and then you can enjoy the view of me in your bed as well," Cas teased and Dean chuckled, kissing him again.

"Fine," Dean conceded, letting Cas go. Cas made quick work of getting ready for bed and when he came back out of the bathroom, Dean had already settled into bed. He threw back the covers for Cas, who slipped in at once, right into Dean's embrace. Cas breathed in deeply, enjoying Dean's scent and the warmth radiating off his body.

"I missed you," he admitted, pillowing his head on Dean's chest.

"I missed you too," Dean told him with a deep sigh, carding his fingers through Cas' hair. "I'm so glad you're here now…" Dean continued petting Cas' hair for a while, humming contently, before he slowly drifted off and fell asleep. Cas continued listening to his breathing, conscious of how good he felt, to finally be by Dean's side again.

When Dean woke up the next morning, it was to Cas leaning over him, peering into his face with a gentle smile on his lips. Dean was already much more relaxed than he had been the last couple of days, but seeing Cas first thing in the morning, feeling his warmth and the weight of his presence right besides him, made Dean sigh contently, relaxing further into his pillows. The last couple of days just waking up had felt like a horrible chore, but now Dean felt none of that heaviness, none of that misery. There was just him and Cas and a whole weekend ahead of them.

"Hey, beautiful," Dean said, his voice still raspy with sleep. "Like what you see?"

"Hm, yes," Castiel said gently, lifting his hand to Dean's face, his touch featherlight against Dean's skin. "Actually, I love what I see," he said, lowering himself enough to kiss Dean good morning.

"Mmm, do you now," Dean asked when his brain had come back from a momentary blank, wrapping his arms around Cas and pulling him on top of him. Castiel chuckled, burying his face in Dean's neck, the warm sound sending sparks of adoration through Dean.

"Coffee, Dean?" Castiel eventually asked, after Dean had held him in his arms a bit, enjoying the feel of holding Cas close.

"Sure," Dean said, reluctantly opening his arms so that Cas could sit up. Dean grunted when Cas pretty much planted his ass on Dean's crotch. Castiel tilted his head, a frown appearing on his face. "Maybe we could take care of this first?" Dean suggested, lightly rotating his hips to press his morning wood against Cas. Castiel dropped his head, laughing.


"Awesome," Dean decided.

Showered and refreshed, Dean prepared breakfast for Cas (fuck Dean's diet, he was having pancakes and bacon, there was no way he was going to subject Cas to an egg white omelet with kale). It was somewhat odd seeing Cas sitting in Dean's living room, but it was a sight Dean was sure he could be getting used to in no time. Cas smiled at him when Dean let himself drop onto the couch as well, his cheeks lightly bulging with pancakes. He looked so much like Jack right then, it was almost funny.

"Like Millie's pancakes," Cas told him, licking his lips.

"Secret Winchester family recipe," Dean said with a wink even though they were actually just normal pancakes. Castiel studied him, never quite losing that amused and fond expression.

"Well," he started, swallowing down his last bite. "I guess she'll have to teach me then." Dean laughed, but then he actually got what Cas was saying.


"I think we should start talking about a change to our living arrangements," Cas said, leaving Dean somewhat stunned. A heavy conversation like that this early in the morning? Was Dean's brain even online enough for that?

"Cas… we don't have to, just because I was a bit of a mess yesterday," Dean started cautiously. "I mean… I totally want us to move forwards but not at the expense of your comfort."

"It won't be at the expense of my comfort, I promise. We don't have to decide anything right now. But I think it's important that we do start talking about our options."

"Okay," Dean said, somewhat insecure about it.

"It's clear that you can't continue making this drive every weekend and while I'd like to say that I'd be up making it every weekend, I know that I'd eventually get tired of it too…" he said and Dean nodded. "I was on the phone with your parents yesterday."

"What?" Dean asked, totally taken by surprise. Cas sent him a look. "Sorry, it's just that I didn't know you were talking to them. They never mentioned it."

"We usually don't talk about anything important. What they've been up to, what Jack's doing, weird noises my car makes."

"You know that's just because your car is a piece of crap," Dean teased, though he was still processing that Cas was actually bothering striking up a relationship with his parents on his own account.

"Your dad said the same, but he phrased it a bit nicer. I thought you Winchesters appreciated vintage cars." Dean snorted, receiving an eye roll in return. "In any case, we obviously also talk about you. I voiced my concern about you driving so much and your mom did agree. You don't have to make the drive to Kansas every weekend, Dean. Your parents understand and definitely don't expect it."

"Yeah, but I feel they kinda do? Sam's too far away to visit and I've been ditching my responsibilities as well because of work," Dean said, unsure how to feel about Cas sort of stepping in. He wasn't put off, that was sure, but he felt somewhat ashamed about it. They were Dean's parents after all, he should have the guts to talk to them about this.

"It's not a responsibility, Dean. Your parents are fine living their lives and seeing you from time to time. But if you're unsure, then you can call and talk to them about it as well," Cas suggested. Dean heaved a sigh. Castiel put his hand on Dean's thigh. "Dean, it's fine."

"Yeah, okay. Fine," he muttered. Castiel smiled and gave his thigh a squeeze. "And where does that leave us? Even if I admit that driving all the time isn't good for me, I don't want to only see you from time to time…"

"And you won't have to. It's been pretty obvious to me that Jack doesn't exactly need me hovering." Cas sighed. "He's loving college and I think he's doing well. Me however, in my apartment? Not so much."

"Cas…" Cas shook his head.

"It's okay, Dean. It's just… the apartment was always going to be a temporary solution and I was always going to have to adjust to Jack being away… And I'd rather do that besides you," Cas decided. "I understand that you can't move because you've got to think about your career. You don't want to leave Sandover, do you?"

"Yeah… I mean I didn't have a good time back at work recently… But I think it was just all the driving… I'm sure I'd have a better time at work if I didn't have to worry about that," Dean said. Castiel studied him, a small frown on his face.

"You do know you don't have to stay at Sandover if you don't feel like it. I'm sure there are plenty of other job opportunities for someone with your portfolio," Cas suggested, correctly reading Dean's somewhat unsure expression. "But we're not making concrete plans here, we're just considering our options."

"Yeah… okay. Yes. To be honest, I'm not sure, Cas. The idea of quitting scares the crap out of me. I've been at Sandover for so long and I've enjoyed the challenge. It's just recently that I've been feeling… off about it. And I don't know if that means I have to quit my job. And I'm not sure I'll find something that pays as well…"

"Is that a concern for you? You seem to be doing well financially," Cas said, looking around the apartment. Dean laughed at that. "So if a new job came with a cut in salary but also cut down on the stress you have? I think that would be a good deal we'd be able to manage well, considering we also have my income then."

"I guess, but… I'm not sure-" Dean said, trailing off.

"It's okay Dean… You don't have to quit your job," Cas told him gently. "And it'll probably take a while either way. Would you want me to move in with you?"

"Into this apartment?" Dean asked and Cas shrugged.

"If you're attached to this apartment then sure. As long as you don’t mind that I owe some stuff that would definitely disrupt the look of this apartment," he said with a laugh. "It's not very… colorful."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. It's not very homely. But I wouldn't mind changing it. Or moving. I'm not super attached to it. I'd be happy to look for a new apartment or even a house with you."

"Then I'll be looking for jobs in Dayton," Cas decided. Just like that. Dean looked at him.

"You sure? Even though you'd have to move away from your family, from Jack?" Dean asked and he saw Cas wince slightly, but eventually he nodded, looking up at Dean.

"Yes. I know it'll take some getting used to, but Jack's fine. I feel I finally have to start making decisions for myself," he said. "And I want you. To live with you." Dean was at a loss of words, but only for a moment, because he put his hands on Cas' jaw, pulling him close to kiss him.

"That's what I want too, Cas. More than I can say," he told him, feeling Cas' lips form to a smile under his. "I love you."

"I love you too," Cas told him, wrapping his arms around Dean's neck and looking at him with a fond smile.

"And we're not moving to fast?" Dean asked, prompted by that last little incredulous part inside of him. Cas shook his head. "No?"

"No." Dean grinned, feeling so giddy and excited he could barely stand it. "But it'll take me some time to find a job, so we'll still have to figure out what to do until then. Since I'll be moving here, I think I'll be making the drive unless Jack decides he wants to meet me."

"Sounds perfect to me, Cas," Dean told him. "That's absolutely perfect."

Chapter Text

The café Cas sat in was relatively noisy, populated by young people chatting and working on their laptops. Cas didn't exactly stick out in terms of what he had on his table (a coffee, a laptop and a newspaper) but he certainly was about 20 years older than the average patron. Maybe that was to be expected, considering Jack had suggested this coffee shop close to his campus. Cas was glad that Jack had agreed to meeting him on a weekday so easily when he had asked if he was free this evening. Castiel stopped his surveillance of the coffee shop and turned back to his laptop, scrolling through job offers for accountants in Dayton. He'd probably just apply to anything that looked somewhat promising and didn't come with a significant pay cut. Ideally, there would be no mentions of the words "modern corporate pack philosophy" in the ad. God, Cas hated his current job's stupid corporate pack philosophy.

"Hey, sorry I'm late!" Castiel looked up, seeing Jack put his backpack on the table before sitting down. He grinned at Cas, which instantly pushed all worries about his job search to the back of Cas' mind. "I was hanging out with Harper at the library and forgot the time." Jack turned around in his chair, without awaiting a comment from his father, looking towards the counter. Castiel reached for his wallet and held out a $20 bill to his son. Jack noticed and took it with a smile, dashing off to order himself something. Castiel chuckled, watching his son fondly. But then he remembered the comment about Harper. Jack had mentioned the names of a couple of friends, Clark, Maggie, Harper… but he didn't actually know anything about them yet.

"So… Harper," Cas started somewhat awkwardly when Jack was back with two coffees and a muffin to share. He handed Cas the coffee. Cas took it gratefully, only noticing now that he had already drained his previous one. "Is Harper a boy or a girl?"

"She's a girl," Jack said casually, sipping his coffee. "She works in the library. She's nice!" Jack didn't seem intent on telling him more about this mysterious Harper. Cas wondered if this was it, the moment he had both looked forwards to and dreaded. Was Jack starting to be interested in girls? (Or boys? Or both?) Would he start dating? Should they have a talk about that or…

"What are you doing?" Jack interrupted Cas' thoughts before he could commit to asking anything. Jack tilted his head, looking at the newspaper with the circled job adds. "Are you looking for a new job?" Jack looked up, squinting. "Is that why you wanted to meet?" Cas heaved a sigh and closed his laptop.

"Yes," Cas said and Jack's frown just deepened.

"Did they fire you?" Cas shook his head, putting his laptop and the newspaper in its bag.

"No, Jack. Everything's fine. But Dean and I were talking…" Cas found that he was actually nervous, fidgeting with his fingers, so he folded his hands on top of the table to keep them in check. "And we would like to move in together." Jack's frown eased up and he opened his mouth to utter a little "oh". He leant back in his chair, studying Cas.

"Will Dean move here? Or will you move away?" he wanted to know.

"I will move to Dayton because it's easier for me to change my job," Cas admitted, closely watching his son's face. Cas wasn't sure what to expect. Jack frowned at him, looking disgruntled. For some reason his son's displeasure almost made Cas happy. Yes, he was a bit of a selfish bastard still. What dad was glad that his son was unhappy about him moving away?

"I suppose that is what couples do," Jack eventually said, his voice neutral. "Move in together I mean. I would like it better if Dean moved here though." Castiel nodded at him. "Our family is here and I am here," Jack argued. "Dean only has his job in Dayton. Wouldn't it make more sense for Dean to move? He's got less to leave behind."

"I understand what you're saying, Jack," Cas told him, reaching out to put his hand on Jack's fist, getting his son to relax his hands. He didn't think Jack was deeply upset, but he clearly wasn't pleased. "The issue is Dean's job. It's a very important job and he worked hard to get to his position." Jack seemed to think this through, but the frown on his face remained, as if he didn't quite believe that any job was worth staying in Dayton for. Castiel gave Jack's hand a squeeze.

"Would you prefer me not to leave?" he asked gently. "Nothing's set in stone yet. You're my son and I don't want you to be unhappy." Jack looked at him, his expression open, even though the small crease between his eyebrows remained.

"And you're my dad. I want you to be happy too," Jack said. "When you and father got divorced… that was weird. It was… different for you no longer to be home… but I understand why you did it. Why you had to do it." Castiel nodded, listening carefully. Jack had never actually talked in detail about his parents' divorce but Jack was usually like that, working through issues on his own or with Claire before he decided what he felt about it. And it was still pretty recent… "And with Dean… I understand that it's the best choice… You and Dean want to be together."

"Yes," Castiel confirmed, smiling.

"I like Dean and Dean is good for you. So whatever you need to do, wherever you need to go, that'll be the right thing," Jack decided, his voice firm. "And you will still come, right?" he asked after a bit, sounding unsure. "If I need you."

"Of course, Jack. I always will, no matter where you are or where I am," Cas promised. Jack smiled at him, happy and pleased. Cas was relieved to know that Jack would be alright, even though it still pained him to move away from him.

"Aren't you eating the muffin?" Jack asked, pointing towards the plate next to Cas' coffee.

"Oh," Cas said, reaching out to take it. "Of course, thanks." Jack beamed at him. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, of course," Jack said, still smiling. "Are you?"

"Hm, yes… A little bit sad about moving away from you," Cas said, then he reached out and pinched Jack's cheek playfully. Jack let him do it.

"But also happy, right?" Jack asked. "Because you don't like your job, you don't like the apartment. But you do like Dean."

"Yes, also happy," Cas admitted, propping his elbow up on the table to rest his chin in his hand. He watched Jack happily drink his coffee and pick at the muffin. "Do you have homework?"

"Just some reading. I can hang out some more," Jack announced and Cas leaned back in his chair, smiling at his kid.

Work was… okay. After the weekend with Cas, Dean had been able to start into the new week with less of that persistent fog in his head, but he noticed that the feeling of not being quite right hadn't entirely disappeared. Even three weeks after he and Cas had changed their routine, he often caught himself sitting in his office, staring into space between tasks and phone calls. Or looking out of the window and avoiding the usual office chit-chat with his colleagues and his team. His mind was clearly somewhere else and his focus was suffering because of it. Usually, Dean's personal problems pushed him to be even more attentive at work, to pour every emotion he was working through into it. But now…? What was he supposed to do with his straying thoughts?

Dean's phone started ringing and Dean sighed internally. Probably Adler again, with some other problem for him to fix. He picked up the receiver without looking at the caller ID.

"This is Dean Winchester," he said, keeping his voice professionally pleasant.

"Hello! This is Jack!" Dean almost dropped the receiver at the unexpected, cheerful voice of the kid.

"Jack? What's wrong?" he asked, instantly alarmed. He didn't remember giving Jack his office number and when he pulled his mobile phone out of his bag he found no missed calls or text messages. "Did something happen to you? Is Cas okay?"

"Oh, everything's fine," Jack assured him, "but Cas told me about his plan to move to Ohio." Dean opened his mouth, uncomprehending what was going on right now.

"Okay…?" he managed to say which Jack seemed to take as an invitation to continue talking:

"Actually, I think you should move here. I found some interesting jobs in Illinois for you. I'm sending them to your mail." Jack said and there was the distinct noise of Jack typing on his keyboard.

Dean used his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. He let himself relax a bit, now that he knew that nothing bad had happened.

"Jack, I appreciate it, but I actually do have a job. One that's pretty good and that pays really well," he told the kid. What exactly was Jack trying to do? No, scratch that, Dean knew what Jack was trying to do, but why?

"I know," Jack said, "but that doesn’t mean you can't change your job and find one where you won't be so far away from your pack!"

"Pack…?" Dean repeated, never having heard Jack used the somewhat dated term.

"You'll probably want to marry dad and have a family of your own. Studies show, that new families profit from having a network of support in the form of pack members close by." Wow, that sounded like Jack read it in a conservative magazine that Luke had lying around, those that praised traditional pack dynamics and values. I understand that you are concerned about finances," Jack continued and Dean didn't even know what to say to that. Was he concerned about finances? Should he be concerned about finances? "But I've been talking to people, here in college. And all of them say that it's not necessary for the alpha to be the sole or even the main provider."


"Of course, dad will bring me into the family, but you don't have to worry about that either! My parents have a generous college fund for me and I don't anticipate any student debts or anything of that sort that would impact you!" Having made his case, Jack fell silent and Dean felt that silence stretch uncomfortably. What the hell was he supposed to say to that?

"Um… Thank you Jack. That was… quite some pitch," he finally said, hearing Jack huff. "Thank you for your dedication."

"Of course," Jack answered promptly. He still remained on the line, so Dean wasn't sure what else was going to come. Maybe he had some other arguments prepared…? Dean still hadn't even digested what Jack had just said.

"How's college?" he asked, stupidly. Maybe he should tell the kid that he had to work, but he didn't feel like it.

"It's good!" Jack answered promptly. "I've made some friends and joined some clubs, like Claire told me to. Actually, I wanted to ask you for advice as well!"

"Really? What kind of advice?" Dean wanted to know.

"What can you tell me about sex?" Dean almost dropped his phone at that, feeling his heart pretty much summersault in his chest.

"Shouldn't you ask your dad about that? Or your father?" he asked once he had recovered.

"No, I think you're the best person to talk to about it," Jack assured him, still sounding totally unashamed about his question. And he shouldn't be ashamed, but Dean was pretty sure he was way in over his head here. He tugged the receiver between his shoulder and ear and grabbed his mobile phone.

"Help Jack is asking me about sex!!! What do I do?" he quickly typed and fired it off. He didn't think Cas would answer because it was the middle of the afternoon after all. They both should be working.

"Uh, okay… what's the issue?" Dean asked, not sure how to proceed. He balled his hand into a fist in relief when he saw that Cas was typing back.

"I met a girl, her name is Harper, and I have a feeling she might be interested in me?" Jack started, sounding somewhat puzzled about it all.

"!! Tell him to use protection!!" Cas typed back. Wow, very helpful. "What do you mean is asking about sex anyway? Alpha stuff? He hasn't started his rut, has he?"

"Dude, calm down," Dean muttered to himself.


"Oh, not you, sorry," Dean told Jack. "So, you and Harper…?"

"I don't know. She recently broke up with her boyfriend. She seems… dissatisfied and has been seeking my attention," Jack explained. "Clark said she was into me. I'm sure he meant she wants to have sex with me. What do I do?"

"First of all, being someone's rebound sex can be fun, but isn't generally a good idea," Dean said, which was followed by Jack humming. "Do you even want to have sex with her?"

"Dating, having sex, that's what people do, right?"

"No, not everyone," Dean assured him. "You don't have to do it just because you think everybody's doing it. But if you actually do want it, then you've got to make sure both of you really want it."

"So I should ask if she wants to have sex?" Jack wondered. Dean winced slightly because that conversation could be awkward, but Dean didn't know this Harper chick. Maybe she liked people who were straight forwards. Dean himself knew to appreciate it about Cas. But he was getting distracted.

"Generally, yes. You've got to be on the same page. And consent is very important. No means no, for both of you. And don't listen to what some people might say; Alphas can say no too," Dean told him.

"Claire told me before… But did you ever say no? As an alpha?" Jack wondered. Dean leaned back in his chair, wondering just how he got into this situation, but he found that he was quickly shaking off the awkwardness about it.

"Yeah. Sometimes it's hard for people to listen because they've got this idea in their heads about alphas always wanting sex… But we don't."

"Hm okay. So… consent is important," Jack summarized.

"And uh… protection is also very important," Dean added, remembering Cas' text message. "Make sure to always use protection even if she says she doesn't want it. Believe me, you want it. And by protection, I mean condoms. Rut suppressants, the pill, that's all good, but always use condoms anyway."


"And…" Dean tilted his head backwards looking for strength in the pattern of his ceiling. "Don't knot her, okay? Trust me, I know you might want to in the heat of the moment, but it would be awkward."

"And how do I make sure not to knot?" Jack wanted to know and Dean somewhat felt the blood drain from his face. He took a second to compose himself. He had had that conversation before, with Sammy. He should be able to get through it with Jack!

"Just… don't stick it in all the way…" Dean muttered. "You'll feel it when it forms. If it gets hard to… go in, you don't try to get it in. If you've not had a rut yet it probably won't fully form anyway, but just be careful about it."

"Sure, Dean!" Jack answered and Dean had to give it to Cas' parenting: the kid was awfully chill about the whole topic. "You said knotting is awkward. Don't you and dad knot?" Son of a bitch, Jack was going there. What did you even tell your significant other's kid about your sex life?

"Uhm. Cas and I are a couple, so it's different for us. We know each other well enough by now to be fine being stuck together. For alphas my age the tie lasts pretty long, so you gotta know you are comfortable being stuck together for that time. And anyway, not everybody likes knotting. Don’t knot without consent." Dean explained, then he reached for his phone again, because Cas might as well deal with some of the embarrassment.

"No rut, no. Just general questions… Your kid just asked me if you and I knot," Dean texted Cas.


"I will do that. It doesn’t sound very desirable anyway," Jack mused. Dean huffed and refrained from telling him how he'd most likely change his mind about that by the time his rut hit.

"Oh, one more thing!" Dean said. "No biting!"

"No biting, got it," Jack said. "Thanks Dean." Was it over? Thank god. "Don't forget to have a look at the jobs I sent you!"

"I won't," Dean promised.

"Good! Love you, bye!" Jack said and then he hung up, leaving Dean stunned. He slowly put down the phone, then he stared at it some more, processing.

"What was that all about?" Dean looked up, finding Tessa peeking into his office, a smile on her face. "A personal phone call during work?" Dean bristled at that, defensive at once.

"Jack needed some advice," he told her. "It was an important call and I will count it as a break. Don't worry."

"I'm not worrying and everyone takes personal calls but you. Adler's on the phone almost all the time talking about golf and aqua jogging. You're fine," Tessa said with a laugh. "Actually, I think it's kinda cute that your boyfriend's kid calls you at work."

"I don't even know how he got this number."

"He probably went online? Your number is on Sandover's homepage if you've forgotten," she reminded him. Dean wrinkled his nose, but it wasn't like he minded that Jack called him. He probably wanted to make sure Dean would pick up. The kid was clever.

"Why is that cute though?" he wondered.

"You get to parent. You even interrupted work to do it. I think that's good, Dean. Nothing to be defensive about. Cas and Jack might be the right thing for you after all," she said, then she waved at him and left his office. "Don't forget your meeting at 4!"

Dean wasn't sure what to make of her words, but he actually felt pretty good right now. Jack trusted him with his questions and even though he went about it oddly, he did let Dean know that he cared about him and wanted him around. Hell, he had even told him he loved him. That was pretty damn cute. In fact, he should text Cas about it right away. His prep for the 4 o'clock meeting could wait 2 more minutes.

Cas let himself drop face first into Dean's solid chest when his boyfriend opened the door for him.

"Hello to you too," Dean said, the low rumble of his voice and chuckle a comfortable vibration against Castiel's cheek. With a groan, Cas righted himself. "I take it the interview…" he trailed off, searching Cas' eyes. "I don't know actually know how it went. I can't read your grumpy expression!"

"It went okay," Castiel answered with a sigh, letting Dean close the door behind him, shuffling out of his shoes. He put down his bag next to the door. Dean helped him out of his coat and then he pulled him close by his tie for a kiss. Castiel sighed into it, but it couldn't quite undo the tension that had built up during the day. Maybe after some more kisses.

"Yeah? But you don't sound too excited," Dean observed, walking into the apartment. It smelled like spaghetti Bolognese and Cas was glad to spy the pot in Dean's kitchen. The table was already set and Dean made a gesture towards it.

"I'm not," Castiel said, sitting down at the table and loosening his tie a bit. Then he watched Dean grab the food from the kitchen and bring it to the table. "In fact, the whole job search is dreadful. No wonder I didn't leave my stupid insurance company before."


"Not everybody's got such a winning personality like you do, Dean. For some of us applying for jobs is hell," Cas said, well aware that he was being a bit too dramatic. It wasn't the worst thing. Other people had it harder on the job market. Dean blew him a kiss, then he served them both food.

"Bon appétit," Dean announced, then he started eating. After the day's stress, Cas was starving, so he did the same. And it was delicious. He didn't get why Dean claimed that he wasn't a good cook. "What was today's interview for?"

"For a position in the accountant team of a bank. Wesson's," Cas explained. "I'm pretty sure I'll get an offer and it's not too bad…"

"I'm not sure if you should get a job that's simply 'not too bad'. Surely there are other positions for you," Dean said, a small frown on his face.

"I'd like to quit soon. Just the knowledge that I'm leaving makes me tolerate my job less and less. If I wait for the perfect job this will drag out endlessly," he explained. Dean studied him, rolling his fork into his spaghetti.

"Then I'd say you quit next week," he said, taking Cas by surprise. "I'll make up for the loss in income if you can't find a job you like by the time your notice period is up." Castiel opened his mouth, to argue or to sing Dean's praise, he wasn't yet sure, but Dean added: "If you'll allow it, of course…"

"If… you're sure?" Cas asked, feeling almost shy about it. But Dean nodded at once, his expression determined.

"Yes, I'm sure. I'd like to have you with me by Christmas," he said. "A perfect present." Castiel laughed, but he nodded.

"Then I'll quit next week," he said warmly. Dean smiled at him, relieved. "And you'll have me by Christmas."

"Apropos Christmas," Dean started, once he was done grinning at Cas. "Any Novak holiday traditions I should be aware of? We usually have Thanksgiving and Christmas at my parents' place. If you've got no plans, I'd love for you and Jack to join."

"No particular traditions, no. I'd be happy to join you, but I'll have to leave it up to Jack if he wants to spend the holidays with me or with Luke," Cas said. Dean smiled at him.

"Cool. I'm really looking forwards to it," he said and ducked his head, but Cas could still make out his grin. He moved his leg and bumped his foot into Dean's as a gesture of fondness.

"How's Jack doing with his girlfriend?" Dean asked after a moment and Cas heaved a sigh.

"As far as I know he doesn't have a girlfriend. If anything is happening between him and Harper, he's not telling me. And I hope he would tell me if he's got a crush on anyone," Cas admitted. Sure, he himself hadn't told his mom about every crush and he'd actually hesitated telling her about Luke (with good reason). But Jack was unusually chatty about everything, so surely a crush would be on the list of things to tell. Cas watched Dean purse his lips pensively. After a moment, Dean got his phone out of his pocket and typed.

"There. I asked how he and Harper are doing," Dean said and not long after the phone lit up with a message. "Aha!" Castiel straightened, curiously leaning over the table, even though Dean's glass monstrosity was far too wide for him to get anywhere close to Dean's phone.

"What is he saying?" he asked impatiently. Dean looked at him, his expression amused, clearly enjoying torturing Cas by taking his time to read the text.

"Relax, babe," Dean said with a chuckle. "I'm reading it." He cleared his throat. "Hello! Great! Harper and I are friends! You were right, she isn't ready to move on from her boyfriend and she just needs someone to listen to her. So I offered. I don't think I want sex with her either. It would be weird. Also, she called me soft for an alpha. I'm sure she meant it as a compliment but I don’t know what to think about it."

"Oh, well," Castiel said after Dean had finished reading, surprised by the relief he felt. Dean laughed, then he typed on his phone. "What are you saying to him?"

"Just that he's a good kid and that it's totally fine to be a soft alpha," Dean answered, then he put his phone way. "Right? Or do you prefer me with more edge?" Dean winked at him and for some reason it put heat into Cas' cheeks.

"Oh. Uhm…" When Dean noticed, his grin widened. Dean sent him a charged look, then he wiped his mouth with his napkin, never breaking eye contact. He got up and held out his hand. Cas instantly dropped his fork into his plate, the rest of his spaghetti forgotten. He was much more interested in Dean taking his hand and leading him to the bedroom. He had a rough day today, clearly, he was in dire need of a Dean's thorough attentions. And if they were a bit rougher, quicker and messier than usual? Cas deserved that too.

Seeing Cas on a weekday, kissing him good-bye before work, had been a lovely taste of what was soon to come and it made Dean miss Cas more when he got back home in the evening without having the chance to kiss him hello. But it was Thursday already, the weekend just around the bend. Dean was relaxing on his couch after work with his tablet, idly scrolling through the news, when his phone rang. He put down his tablet.

"Hey Charlie, what's up?" Dean asked after he picked up his phone.

"Hi Dean!" Charlie chirped into the phone, "oh my, you don't sound as soulless as the last time we spoke!"

"Haha, very funny," Dean grumbled, though he supposed that she was right. Dean was feeling much, much better. The prospect of moving in with Cas was really lifting his spirits. He was even looking forwards to all the shopping they'd have to do together to make the place their home.

"It's good! I'm happy for you!" Charlie insisted. "And because I'm such a good, caring friend, I actually have something for you!"

"If it's another LARPing costume then no. I'm not wearing anything that doesn't have pants."

"Oh, come on! You can wear tights under it. It's still manly!" she argued. Dean scoffed. "But whatever. No, this isn't why I was calling! Remember how I told you that I was networking?"


"I heard of the perfect job opening for you!" she said. Dean groaned. First Jack and now Charlie again?

"No, Charlie, I told you, I'm-" he started, but Charlie just talked over him, making Dean shut his mouth with a grumble.

"I've been in contact with Ash!" she announced and Dean frowned, shaking his head.

"I have literally no idea who that is," he said.

"Ash? Dr. Badass from LARPing? Dude, what do you do on campaigns all day?" she chastised him. "In any case, he's in need of a new head of marketing."

"I do talk to people! But last I heard Dr. Badass, or Ash whatever, was doing IT for a little bar in Nebraska," he said. "Besides, I'm not in the habit of talking about IRL background stuff when I'm LARPing. You know I stay in character!"

"Yeah, because you're shy," Charlie teased and Dean was ready to throw the gauntlet for that kind of slander. "Anyhow! Ash was doing IT for a little bar, but now he runs an indie game company called the Roadhouse. They've continuously expanded and it's really taken off. I can vouch for them, Dean. They do great stuff. Diverse staff, super work environment, cool projects."

"Charlie…," Dean started with a long-drawn sigh.

"Before you shoot me down, just come check it out. Chicago, this weekend!" Charlie said quickly. "Visit Cas, take him out on a date and then have lunch with Ash. See how you like it." Dean heaved another sigh. "Come on! Even if you don't want the job, Ash'd really like to see you again, since you've been such a no show at events lately." The last part she mumbled, hoping that the guilt tripping worked. Dean groaned because it always did.

"Ugh. Fine," Dean eventually agreed, hearing Charlie shriek into the phone.

"You won't regret it! I promise! Ah, I gotta tell Ash! Talk to you later, love you, bye!" And just like that she disconnected the call, leaving Dean staring at the screen. Luckily for him he didn't feel too disgruntled about it.

"Trip to Chicago this weekend?" he texted Cas and swiftly received a thumbs up emoji in response. Okay then, Chicago it was. Dean would catch up, listening what they had to say and then politely decline. Working at Sandover was alright and Cas got that suspected job offer at the bank that Cas would probably accept. They were ready to make Dayton their home. No need to make it complicated now.

Cas was grateful to visit Chicago, talking about the shitty week he'd had on the ride up. Emboldened by Dean's offer to support him during his job search, he had handed in his notice on Friday, unwilling to spend the weekend worrying about it. Somehow his boss had been scandalized because who else would be organizing the accounting department Christmas party now? Dean had found that somewhat hilarious. When Dean dropped him off, Cas was still invigorated by his venting, but more importantly he was cute and bundled up for the windy weather, happy to go on a sight-seeing tour on his own. Dean felt a bit guilty about that, but he had promised Charlie to meet her for lunch and he wasn't yet ready to let his real life and his LARPing clash. Sure, Cas vaguely knew about it, but he had accepted Dean's very rudimentary explanation without pressing. It wasn't that Dean was really embarrassed about it, not in front of Cas, but he knew it was a bit weird for him, Dean Winchester, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, to have such a silly hobby.

And it was weird, so weird, to walk into a restaurant and see Ash in such an ordinary context. Sprawled out with his arms slung over the back of the booth.

"Spears!" he called, raising his fist in greeting. "Moondoor's favorite sword wielding handmaiden!" Dean rolled his eyes fondly, giving Charlie a hug before shaking hands with Ash. "Take a seat!" Dean did, noticing how giddy Charlie was, hardly able to contain her grin. Ash however was way more relaxed, exactly as Dean knew Dr. Badass to be. He looked Dean up and down. "I can't believe that you actually have short hair, Spears!"

"I can't believe that you weren't wearing a wig," Dean countered with a laugh, feeling himself relax into the conversation. Ash swiped his hand through his long hair, proud of it like he always was.

"What can I say, I'm a fashion icon in role play and real life," he said, then he handed Dean the menu. The place was pretty clearly a burger joint, so Dean didn't have to look long to find something great to eat, mentally sending an apology to Cas that he was enjoying burgers without him. "So, Spears."

"Hm?" Dean asked after they had all ordered something.

"I got quite interested when the Queen mentioned that the great Spears was a Senior VP of Sales and Marketing," he said, rubbing his chin.

"Well yeah, the Queen didn't have to drop that fact," Dean said sending a look Charlie's way who shrugged innocently.

"Why shouldn't I? Ash told me he's looking for a new head of marketing, so of course I was gonna put your name forwards. It's the duty of the Queen to look after her subjects!" Dean rolled his eyes, but Ash lifted his finger, pointing at her.

"Exactly. I do need a new head of marketing and I think you definitely need a new job," he said and Dean sent Charlie another look. What the hell had she been gossiping about him?

"Well, Ash." Ash grinned benevolently. "I looked up the Roadhouse. I do like the look of it and the philosophy and all that… But let's face it, I'm a corporate guy. I know nothing about games apart from LARPing and Zelda. I don't know the field at all." Ash raised his hand, clearly not deterred at all.

"Don't you worry. You'd be mentored by our current head of marketing, for the first couple of months. Jo Harvelle, you'll like her," Ash promised. "We've got a great team, Charlie included."

"And great benefits. Tell him about the benefits," Charlie urged, elbowing Ash. Ash nodded slowly.

"Oh yes. Charlie told me you might be doing a bit of family planning," he said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. Dean heaved a sigh, shaking his head. Such a gossip.

"Not family planning. We're not that far yet," Dean corrected but Ash shrugged.

"Either way, no problem for us! We accommodate everything. Home office, paid leave for new parents," he said, taking Dean by surprise. "But don't listen to my words, instead let yourself be charmed by this contract!" Ash produced a stack of papers, putting it on the table in front of Dean, then he kissed his fingers with a loud smacking noise. "It's beautiful." Dean frowned at him, not quite sure what to make of it, but then he turned his attention to the contract.

"Hm," he said, calmy reading through it. He was aware that Charlie was getting impatient, but she could wait for a moment. It did sound like a good contract, with a less intense schedule, better benefits in case he and Cas did start a family and even though his salary would be less than he got now, it was still decent.

"Come on, Dean," Charlie said, almost whining. "It's in Chicago, close to Cas' family. Isn't that alone worth leaving Sandover for?" Dean looked at her, seeing her earnest expression, then he looked to Ash who grinned at him.

"Thanks for the offer. I'll think about it," he said. And while Charlie had probably expected an instant yes, Ash was cool with that.

"Totally. Now we eat! On me, friends!"

When they parted with hugs and firm handshakes, Dean still hadn't made a decision, but something was happening inside of him, a slow realization that felt like he was waking up from sleeping. He rejoined Cas at a park, finding him somewhat windswept but rosy cheeked and grinning widely. Dean felt a weight lift off him, breathing in the air, feeling that tingling first touch of cold.

"How did you like sight-seeing?" he asked and Castiel's smile widened.

"It was nice," he said, slipping his hand into Dean's, so they could walk around in the park. Dean didn't say more and neither did Cas, happy to just be together.

"Cas," Dean eventually asked when they were back at his car. Cas looked up at him, a smile on his face. "What would you think about moving to Chicago?"

The next two months passed in a whirlwind and Cas was glad to get a little break. They both needed it.

When Dean and him arrived at the Winchester's house, the afternoon was surprisingly cheerful. The sun was shining, warming Cas' face as he got out of the car. It smelled like autumn here, with the tree in front of Dean's childhood home alight with red and yellow leaves. Dean closed the door of the Impala, stirring Cas out of his thoughts. He watched Dean take their travel bags out of the trunk, shouldering one and holding on to the other, shaking his head with a grin when Cas held out his hand to take one.

"It's nice being in the suburbs. You actually get to see some trees," Dean joked, walking up to Cas, "come on, let's get inside before we freeze our balls off."

"I have no balls," Cas reminded him. "And it's not that cold," Cas said with a laugh, but followed Dean up the path to the house. The path was lined with pumpkins, three big carved ones decorating the small porch. Dean rang the doorbell and they didn't have to wait long for Mary to open the door, a big smile on her face.

"Dean, Cas!" she said, opened the door wide and beckoning them in. "Put down those things and let me hug you!" Dean complied while Cas closed the door behind them. When Dean was done receiving hugs, Mary turned to Cas, wrapping him up and squeezing him. "It's so good to see you! Come on, you've got to meet Sam and Jess!" Cas caught Dean's encouraging grin and then they were ushered into the living room. Cas had of course seen pictures of Sam and Jess and heard quite a bit about them. Before he could say hi however, John was there, clapping him on the shoulder, smiling at him warmly.

"Hey Cas," he said and Cas smiled at him before giving him a hug. John hugged like most alphas did, strong, with some fierce claps on Cas' back. But Cas enjoyed it. He enjoyed the cordial atmosphere in the Winchester house. It was quite different to the last time and when he looked to Dean, he was sure Dean had noticed too. Of course, Cas had been in near constant contact with them over the last two months, but it was still nice to know that they were less reserved now.

"You must be Cas!" a woman said, rising swiftly from the couch. She was very tall, taller than him even, her hair golden curls, similar to Mary's. "I'm Jess!" She didn't hesitate to hug him. "It's so nice to finally meet you!"

"You too," Cas said and then there was Sam, even taller than Jess.

"Don’t keep him to yourself. Let me get a hug in too," Sam said.

"Hello Sam," Cas laughed, getting pulled into a firm hug. "You both are very tall and have beautiful hair." Sam let him go, looked at him for a beat and then he started laughing.

"It's true," Dean said, walking up to them to get his own hugs. "It's been too long."

"Yeah. It always is," Sam said. Once everyone had received all the hugs they wanted, John got everyone to sit down and take a glass of wine.

"Like civilized people," he announced. "Let's celebrate having the whole family together. Or well, most of it."

"Grandma Millie is celebrating with her friends, like she usually does. She sends her love," Mary explained.

"You have a son, right? Didn't he want to come?" Jess wondered.

"He wanted to come," Cas said, turning his wine glass around in his hands. "But he also wanted to take the chance to see his cousin and friends from high school again. He's celebrating Thanksgiving with my brother and sister-in-law. But he will be here for Christmas."

"He sent us very polite texts, wishing us a wonderful Thanksgiving," Mary said fondly. "He's such a sweet kid." Cas nodded, happy to know Jack was staying in contact as well.

"Dean tells me you're a lawyer, Sam?" Cas started, interested in getting to know this family better. He knew how fond Dean was of his brother and Jess.

"Yeah! I'm a criminal defense lawyer. I've done legal counselling on sub-gender discrimination before. This has been a bit of a change, but very interesting," Sam explained.

"Interesting and time consuming. This is the first visit to Kansas this year we've managed to pull off," Jess explains, putting her hand on Sam's leg.

"Do you have an intense job as well, Jess?" Cas wondered.

"For me it's easier. I can work anywhere," she said with a wink. "I'm a graphic designer for a publishing company."

"You two are both workaholics. No, the three of you," Mary said, pointing from Jess to Sam to Dean. "I don't know about you Cas."

"No, definitely not," he said with a laugh.

"Anyway!" Mary said, lifting her wine glass to her lips. "Any news? What's happening? Are you two finally getting married?" Jess and Sam both groaned. Cas looked at Dean, a bit confused.

"Sam and Jess have been engaged for about 10 years now and mom's been on their asses about tying the knot – figuratively speaking." Jess sent Dean a glare, but then she heaved a sigh.

"We don't want to make it a big deal. We're mated after all. We're waiting until Sam has found the perfect wedding dress," she said, knocking her shoulder into Sam's. He snorted.

"Haha," Sam said, rolling his eyes.

"What about you, Cas? Were you ever mated?" Jess wondered and now Cas felt all eyes on him, including Dean's even though Dean knew that he had never been mated. This was one of those topics people didn't often talk about, but apparently Jess didn't have the same reservations.

"No. I wanted an equal mating, bites on both, or none at all," Cas said and received nods by both Jess and Sam. "My ex-husband didn't want to walk around with a bite on him. He felt it signified ownership and submission which he decided no alpha should be subjected to."

"Uff," Sam said while Jess winced in sympathy.

"Outdated," John muttered into his wine.

"Very… And if this was what he thought of mating, of getting ownership and submission out of me, then I clearly didn't want his bite."

"Plenty of people don't like the bite, it has fallen out of fashion," Mary mused. Cas shrugged and decided that this was a good moment to be a bit daring.

"I'm not averse to it," he admitted and sent Dean a wink. That got the people in the room to laugh or whistle, while Dean turned a lovely shade of red.

"Cas, come on dude, you don't say sexy stuff like that in front of my parents," Dean complained but it was clear to Cas that he wasn't being serious.

"Oh, come on. We're all adults here with a sex life and most of us do have a mating bite," Mary said with a laugh. A small conversation started up about their experience with mating bites, which Cas listened to somewhat half-heartedly. He was focused on Dean, who was somewhat tense next to him. Cas didn't think it was because of the conversation topic. He was probably gearing himself up to something. Cas put a hand on Dean's thigh, smiling at him supportively when Dean sent him a look.  He smiled almost timidly, before he looked up.

"Actually, Cas and I have some news." Immediately a hush fell over the living room and all eyes turned towards Dean. "I… uh… I got a new job. I quit Sandover." Mary opened her mouth but no sound came out, still she put her hands over it. It was difficult to say if she was holding back a shriek of delight or if she was shocked speechless. But considering that she had been urging Dean to make changes, Cas assumed that she was delighted. "Cas also quit his job. We haven't started looking for places yet, but we'll be moving to Chicago."

"Oh my God!" Mary finally exclaimed, pumping her fist. "I'm so glad you two are taking this step!"

"That's great, son." John agreed, then he got up, "that calls for more wine. Anyone want more wine?"

"Honey, no, we'll be eating in a bit," Mary argued but John was already on the move.

"I'm gonna get some more wine," he announced. Mary laughed, shaking her head.

"Whew," Dean said, putting his arm around Cas, "don't know why I was nervous about that," he admitted.

"You've never been too keen on big changes," Sam said, "and you've always been pretty defensive about your job."

"Yeah, because you guys always got on my nerves about it," Dean said, rolling his eyes, but he was smiling now. John came back into the living room, stepping over Sam's outstretched legs to pour more wine into everyone's glasses.

"Since we're all having lots of wine, I suppose no omega present has any other big news to share?" Mary said with a chuckle, toasting towards Jess and then Cas. Cas frowned, not quite following.

"Oh no, nope!" Jess declared, laughing loudly. "We're still happily childless, right, Sam?"

"I'll drink to that," Sam said with a smile, raising his glass and then he turned his head to kiss Jess. Mary heaved a dramatic sigh.

"But who knows. Maybe later," Jess added and Castiel had to laugh at Mary's reaction. She sat up straight at once, almost spilling her wine.

"Maybe later? John!" John only looked at her, bewildered. "Maybe later is new! It's been no for 10 years!" John rolled his eyes, clearly much more relaxed about the topic of grandchildren.

"What about you, Dean and Cas? Has the topic come up with you?" Jess asked, taking Cas by surprise. He turned to look at Dean, who sent him a bit of a blank look, not being helpful at all. Of course Cas knew that this topic could eventually come up, but now he still found himself without an answer.

"They have only been together a couple of months, it's probably a bit early to be discussing that," Sam mused.

"Yeah. We haven't talked about that yet," Dean admitted, the arm he had slung around Cas' shoulder remaining relaxed, though he did pull Cas closer a bit.

"Cas, Cas, you don't have to worry," Mary assured him, "the second will come out way easier than the first." Now Sam and Dean both looked somewhat uncomfortable about the direction the topic had taken. "Sam was a big baby but came out swiftly. I barely made it to the hospital! John would have cried if I had given birth inside the Impala."

"Would have been fitting. Conceived there, delivered there," John said.

"Gross, dad!" Dean and Sam both shouted while Jess roared with laughter. Cas however focused on the conversation with Mary, not too sympathetic with Dean's apparent torment.

"Yes? With Jack it was intense. It certainly made me think twice about having more children for a good couple of years," Cas said with a chuckle.

"Well, good thing is, also for Jess over there, that we omegas don't have to worry about increasing risks as we age, at least not yet. You've still got time, both of you, to have a couple of babies."

"If you are so interested in having a baby around, then why don't you and John get on it?" Jess challenged. That derailed the conversation as everyone started talking at once about sex and child rearing later in life, effectively letting Dean and Cas off the hook. Cas turned his head, looking at Dean only to find his eyes on him already. Dean's expression was searching, almost serious, but then he too was pulled into the conversation and the spell was broken.

Thanksgiving dinner was, as always in the Winchester household, a loud and hilarious affair, where alcohol flew freely and nobody looked at Dean twice if he ate three slices of pie after he already wolves down what felt like his weight in Thanksgiving dinner.

He was fully and sated and feeling good when they finally retreated to his old bedroom, he and Cas comfortably snuggled up on the somewhat small bed.

"That was nice," Cas said, "especially after the many Thanksgiving dinners spent with Luke's family."

"Yeah? They're all dicks?" Dean asked, tracing patterns on Cas' back.

"Hm, not necessarily," Cas mused, "but he and his brothers all bring the worst out in each other, especially after everyone got into the Bourbon… Lots of arguing for the sake of arguing."

"Sounds like fun," Dean huffed, then they fell into a comfortable silence.

"You know… we should decide if we want a house or an apartment," Cas said, surprising Dean with the unexpected topic. When Cas moved, Dean lifted his arm so that Cas could roll off of Dean and onto his side. He propped up his elbow and rested his cheek on his knuckles, studying Dean.

"Uh… okay?" Dean said, sitting up slightly, resting against the headboard. He had no idea what brought this on, but if Cas wanted to talk about it now then why not. "I'd like a house actually, with a yard." Cas nodded. "I'm kinda missing it. Don't get me wrong, I liked my apartment and the big balcony. But it's just not the same. I like a bit of nature."

"Yeah…," Cas answered. It was somewhat surreal to be talking to Cas about a house, a house they'd own together, where they'd live together. No more long drives and missing him each day. God, Dean couldn't wait!

"It'd have to have a room for Jack. I want him to have a space to come home to," Cas decided. Dean nodded at once.

"Of course. And a garage for the cars. A big ass garage if I can't convince you to give up your crappy car." Cas rolled his eyes. Dean chuckled, but he fell silent when Cas fixed him with a more serious look. "What?"

"I think we need to talk about kids," Cas explained. Dean widened his eyes, sitting up slowly to stare at him. Cas's forehead creased and he sat up too.


"Yes," Cas decided. "I would like to know if you want kids."

"Uh," Dean mumbled, scrambling for something to say instead of just blurting out his answer. "Yes, I think so." Dean lifted his hand before Cas could answer. "But I know that you already went through it, Cas. And I'm not asking you to go through it again after such a long time." Cas tilted his head.

"Dean, I'm asking because I want to know what you want," he reminded him and his expression was soft enough that it took the edge off Dean's alarm. Dean scratched his head, messing up his hair. "Why are you nervous?"

"I don't know. It's kind of a big topic," Dean admitted. "I'd like to have kids, but if you don't then I won't push for it. I'd rather have you." Cas smiled at him. "But… uh… do you? Want kids? More kids I mean?"

"I wanted more kids after Jack," Cas told him. "Being pregnant with Jack was easy, but the birth was rough... And when Luke and I tried for another baby a couple of years later it didn't happen… We stopped trying eventually since Luke wasn't sold on the idea anyway."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Cas," Dean said, "that must have been disappointing." Cas shrugged.

"It was for the best. Jack was a pretty demanding kid anyway," he said and winked at Dean. "But I'd like to have kids with you."

"Kids? As in plural?" Dean asked, not keeping the grin off his face. Cas chuckled. "Because there's space for three in the backseat of the Impala." That got Cas to laugh.

"We'll see about that," he hedged, then he wrapped his arms around Dean, pulling him down.

"So we'll need a big house, huh?" Dean asked, looking up at Cas who was leaning above him.

"Good thing you're a millionaire," Cas teased, then he kissed Dean and lay down himself. "Good night, Dean."

"What? Good night? We were having a talk about babies and you just say good night?" Dean asked, wrapping his arms around Cas to pull him close. Cas started laughing once Dean kissed him all over his face. "This is a highly emotional moment for me!"

"Is it? You seem to be totally fine!" Cas argued but didn't try to squirm out of Dean's hold. Dean laughed, letting himself fall back into his pillow. "You are fine, right?"

"Yes, Cas. I'm fine. More than fine. I'm happy," he said, feeling content. Cas hummed, seeming pensive, but eventually he snuggled close, throwing his arm and one leg over Dean. Dean groaned, feeling the leg disturb his full stomach.

"I'm glad," Cas said. Dean dropped a kiss into Cas' messy hair, then he reached out and switched off the light on the nightstand. The thin curtains couldn't entirely block out the night of the late November moon, sending faint patterns up on the ceiling.

Maybe next year they'd be able to host Thanksgiving at their own house, in some fancy suburb of Chicago. Maybe he'd even decorate the house with Cas and Jack, who would hopefully come visit them. He didn't want to get ahead of himself and imagine that his mom would already get to play with her grandkids then but maybe the year after that.

Dean sighed contently and closed his eyes.

Whatever would come their way, it'd be amazing.

Chapter Text

Castiel loved his family, he really did, but he was thinking about taking drastic measures and block their numbers. They had been very supportive of his decision to quit his job, they had also been supportive of moving in with Dean, but the moment the words "buy a house in Chicago" had passed his lips, all hell had broken loose.

And he understood them, to a certain degree. Buying a house meant settling down, but it also came with a host of other implications that his family was – as it turned out once Jimmy came over for a friendly interrogation– irritatingly good at picking up on.

"You're just two people, why do you need a house?" Jimmy asked suspiciously, when he came around to help Cas pack up his apartment to put it into storage until the move. Castiel faltered in his cleaning out of his closet, unsure how to answer. He barely had any time to actually processed the fact that he and Dean decided to have children together. They had only talked about it a couple of days ago and neither of them had brought the topic back up since Thanksgiving.

"Uhm… Dean wants a yard," he settled on saying, turning back to his cleaning. He was aware that the sounds of Jimmy moving his things had stopped.

"Right. How many rooms were you thinking?" Jimmy asked and Castiel dropped his head with an internal sigh.

"I don't know yet. Enough."

"So… a family home," Jimmy concluded and Cas could hear the smirk in his voice. He turned to look over his shoulder, finding Jimmy grin at him. "Come on, Cas!" Jimmy said. "What's up with the dark expression? It doesn't surprise me that you two would think about starting a family."

"Right…," Cas muttered, turning around to face his brother. "We only just talked about it. That doesn't mean we'll have kids." Jimmy dropped all pretense that he was still putting Cas' books into boxes.

"Did you tell Dean about the issues you had?" Jimmy wondered, his voice careful. Cas nodded even though he hadn’t really gone into any detail. "Even if you couldn't get pregnant again after Jack, doesn't mean there was any issue on your end… You did have to try a bit for Jack too and back then Luke was more invested…"

"I know… But I'm almost 20 years older now. What if it's even more difficult now?" Cas wondered with a sigh. "Imagine we get a big house with room for kids and then it remains empty?" That thought, randomly as it had popped up in Cas’ mind, instantly sunk to the pit of his stomach like a heavy stone.

"Get yourself to a doctor before you stress yourself out about it unnecessarily," Jimmy told him. "And there are plenty of options from IVF to adoption. You and Dean will find a way to have kids, don't worry." Castiel breathed in deeply, trying to shake himself out of this unnecessary moment of anxiety. Jimmy was right. There was no point in worrying in advance.

"So… seen any houses you like?" Cas gladly took the distraction, pulling out his phone to show Jimmy some listings he had seen.

In hind-sight, that had been his mistake. Because once everything was in storage and Cas was on the drive to Dayton, the messages started coming.

Responsible driver that he was, he dutifully ignored them until he was in the garage to Dean's apartment building. When he checked the phone he found that the Novak family chat was blowing up. He frowned and scrolled through it, finding link after link to house listings which his family then extensively debated.

"Uhm," Cas muttered to himself, standing by his car and scrolling, when he could already be in Dean's arms instead.

"Mission find Dean&Cas a good house! Enough space for kids!" was the message by Claire that had started it all.

"Damnit Jimmy," Cas grumbled, then he put his phone into his pocket, where it continued to buzz.

Cas had of course told Dean about his family's interest in their house hunting, but Dean didn't quite know how intense the Novaks could get about things (and how bored Jimmy and Amelia apparently were, considering how much time they must be spending on the internet, looking for houses). Dean had merely smiled and nodded, asking Cas to forward him any houses that looked interesting.

That was until they were actually in Chicago a week later to check out some listings.

The real estate agent greeted them with a smile.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Winchester and Mr. Novak. I let you daughter go on ahead to get a first impression," she said. Dean and Cas exchanged a look. While Dean was puzzled, Cas had a good idea what was going on. His suspicions were confirmed when the real estate agent opened the door and Claire was there poking her head back into the foyer, grinning at them.

"Took you long enough to get here!" she said cheerfully. Cas knew there was absolutely no point in arguing with her (though Cas was pretty sure she was skipping classes to be here and if he should rat her out to Jimmy. He didn’t want to lose the spot of favorite uncle to Amelia’s brother though, so maybe not.).

“Yeah well, if we knew you were joining us, we might have hurried up,” Dean said, effortlessly playing along with Claire. “Initial thoughts, kiddo?”

“It’s alright,” was all Claire said, pretending to be bored, but then she grinned and darted back into the house. The real estate agent smiled encouragingly and while Cas heaved a sigh (or sent a prayer for strength up into the sky) he let himself be pulled into the house by Dean.

Dean and Cas ended up looking at about ten houses in the following couple of days, their real estate agent well prepared and patient with them when Dean or Cas found one or the other thing they didn’t like. Cas was amused to learn that Dean definitely wanted his own room to use as a walk-in closet (which he refused to elaborate on even though Cas didn’t even ask, which turned the room from a simple walk-in closet to a mystery), that he was unwilling to budge on a big garage and that he had plenty of opinions on “creepy basements” and “spooky attics”. Cas had not nearly the same amount of demands and was therefore happy to let Dean (and Claire, who tried to participate in as many viewings as she could) decide.

Eventually they settled on a nice three-story house with a big garage, a reasonably sized fenced in backyard, and plenty of rooms. Cas hadn’t been a fan of all the open space in Dean’s apartment, so he was glad that this was an older house and that the walls had not been sacrificed to the modern obsession with big empty spaces. The kitchen was especially nice. It was ever so slightly dated in its appliances which was a big departure from Dean’s state of the art chrome kitchen, but it had windows and plenty of storage space. Dean had agreed to a dated kitchen because it was easier to keep clean when there were children in the house. It wasn’t a pretentious looking place (which, no offense to Dean, but his Dayton apartment had been) compared to the one or the other mansion they had been shown. Dean had vetoed them quickly, citing that he might be rich, but not that kind of rich. No, this was a good, big, solid house, in what seemed to be a great neighborhood with easy access to schools and shops, and Cas really liked it. But it felt big and empty in a way that Luke’s home never did.

“Maybe this is a bit of an overkill,” Castiel offered when they were standing in their new home, the proud owners of a lot of empty rooms.

“Eh… Maybe a bit ambitious,” Dean eventually said as he surveyed the wooden floors and freshly painted white walls. Cas snorted. Ambitious was one way to put it. Not counting their shared room, Jack’s room and Dean’s mystery walk-in closet, they had another 5 rooms. Cas would probably grab one of the smaller ones as an office, but that still left 4 rooms. He doubted he’d be able to fill that up with kids. Cas’ expression must have looked rather funny, because Dean burst out laughing.

“Relax. I’m sure we’ll figure it out. The house is great! So what if we’ve got some extra space! This is a good excuse to get everyone to come to us for family holidays,” Dean assured him, then he slapped Cas’ ass. “Come on! Let’s christen this place!”

“Dean, we don’t even have a bed!” Cas complained, but he did follow Dean up into what was going to be their bedroom. It had plenty of windows and access to a pretty balcony looking over their yard. Dean laughed, then he plopped down on the floor, assuming an enticing pose and sending Cas an exaggeratedly sexy look.

“Ugh, fine,” Cas laughed.

The move ate up pretty much all of Cas’ attention span and by the time Christmas was around the corner he was still all over the place. All of the furniture they wanted to keep had found a place in their new home, but it still looked pretty mismatched in a not very charming way. Neither Dean nor Cas could be bothered to really figure this out at the moment and despite Dean’s income, buying this house had taken a good chunk out of their savings. And even though Dean and Cas hadn’t talked about it in detail, they knew that they would have to pay for their wedding and children in the near future. So while they weren’t hurting for money in any way, they weren’t quite ready to buy totally new furniture just for the visuals. Cas would simply have to live with Dean’s monstrosity of a glass dining table and designer chairs, huge leather couch with its “no food” rule and weird modern art Dean somehow had found necessary to take from his apartment for the foreseeable future. Their bedroom was pretty nice though and neither had to make any compromises there.

Occupied as he was, Christmas passed in a blur, though Cas had a great time in Kansas and was amused to see Jack take an instant liking to Sam and Jess. Some strategic use of puppy eyes (both by Sam and by Jack) had secured Jack a trip to California during his spring break which Cas had to be fine with even if it meant not having Jack hang out with him in Chicago. He felt that ultimately this was one more step to tie the families together and confirm Cas’ place among the Winchesters. Because this was Cas’ family now and he loved them all (and yes, he got a bit too sappy with some cups of mulled wine warming his stomach and told them as much). It had been an all-around great time.

Not long after Christmas Cas started a new accounting job that he was able to do mostly from home and things were really starting to fall into place by mid-January. He had a nice home with a lot of potential, he had gainful employment that he enjoyed, his son was doing great at college and he had a wonderful partner. He was happy, something he couldn’t have imagined just a year earlier.

But truth to be told, now that Cas finally had some room freed up in his brain to think again, the worry he had been carrying around unacknowledged reared its ugly head again. While he was putting up another shelf in his home office, with Dean being secretive in his “walk-in closet”, Cas let his thoughts stray to the many other rooms that still stood empty and unused.

“Daydreaming?” Dean asked, calling Cas out of his thoughts. Dean stood in the open door to Cas’ office, a box in his arms.

“I suppose,” he said with a frown, but then he tilted his head, taking in Dean with yet another box. “Just how many boxes of clothes do you have? And where did you have them in Dayton?” Dean colored right away.

“In the basement. It’s…” Dean wrinkled his nose but he then heaved a sigh. “It’s LARPing stuff.”

“And why are you being so squirrely about it?” Castiel asked, abandoning his shelf. Dean frowned at Cas.

“Because it’s embarrassing,” Dean muttered, then he shifted the box and then walked on. Castiel huffed, following Dean out. He never tried to be super nosy, since it was clear that Dean was being secretive about his room for a reason. Dean was allowed to keep things to himself, but Cas was a bit curious. He poked his head into the room when he saw the door ajar.

“I don’t think it’s embarrassing. It’s a creative hobby,” Cas told him and when Dean didn’t shriek and kick him out, he took this as an invitation to step inside. He had a look around the room. Dean had put up two wardrobes on one wall, with a tall mirror on the opposite end and a tailor’s dummy standing in the corner. He had some decorative fake swords and shields mounted on the wall, as well as a red flag with a golden moon on it. But there was still a lot of empty space for more shelves and decorations to be put up. Dean let him look around, though he seemed a bit nervous even though he appeared to be busy putting things into drawers. Cas was fascinated by a little mannequin head with a long blond wig set on it. “LARPing means that you play a character, right? Do you wear this wig?”

“Yeah…” Dean said, heaving another sigh. Cas really didn’t understand why Dean was so insecure about this.

“Could I also play?” Cas wondered, taking Dean by surprise. “I played some tabletop role playing games as a teen. I’m not good at acting at all, but it seems like fun.” Dean studied him with an expression that Cas found hard to read. “I don’t mean to overstep; you don’t have to share your hobbies with me.”

“No, that’s… that’s okay I guess. It’s just… you know…,” Dean gestured vaguely and even though Cas waited patiently for Dean to explain, he didn’t offer anything else. After a while he sighed. “Sure. I’ll show you the website later so you can check out the story and the campaign we’re currently doing. Though I’m a bit out of the loop. I haven’t been since before I met you.”

“Is that bad?”

“Not necessarily. I just miss out on the fun and can’t really develop my character if I’m not playing,” Dean said. Cas nodded, then he helped Dean put things away and hang elaborate looking maps in big glass frames on the wall. The LARPing game looked to be medieval, but Cas also spotted some items which looked Wild West related to him and then there was the horror movie and Anime box that Dean had made disappear before Cas could peek inside. Since Dean was still a bit on edge and nervous about allowing Cas to see all of this, Cas decided not to ask anything else. They worked in silence and while Dean was gradually relaxing, Cas’ thoughts circled back to what he had been pondering earlier.

“I think I might visit a specialist,” he finally said and Dean instantly turned to him. “I haven’t been to an omega health clinic in years… I think it’s time for another check-up.”

“Okay? Is that something you’re worrying about?”

“I guess?” Cas offered, feeling insecure. “I’m 44 and I’ve had fertility issues in the past. I just want to know what to expect going forwards.” Dean studied him but eventually he nodded.

“Sure. But you know there’s no rush, right? Just because we bought this house doesn’t mean we have to have kids right away. I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m… I don’t know. Expecting it.”

“No, you don’t give me that impression, Dean. It’s just my own insecurity that I’ve been trying to ignore for 15 years,” Cas admitted. “And now that I have a boyfriend I want to have kids with it’s all coming back.”

“Okay, do you want me to go with you?” Dean wondered but Cas shook his head.

“No, that’s fine. It’s just a check-up,” Cas told him and Dean nodded, then he leaned down to give Cas a quick kiss. “What was that for?”

“Just a little supportive kiss,” Dean said with a grin and Cas smiled at him. “Let me know if you change your mind about needing support.” Cas agreed to that and then they continued working.

Two weeks later, Cas fidgeted in his seat in Dr. Mia Vallens’ office. He was way more nervous than he had anticipated before actually stepping into the office.

“What can I do for you today, Castiel?” Mia asked, her expression friendly and encouraging.

“I’m worried about my ability to have children,” Cas answered promptly and Mia lifted her eyebrows. “I have a son, he’ll be 19 in May. But I had complications during his birth and when I tried to have a second child, it didn’t work. My ex-husband and I eventually stopped trying,” Cas explained. Mia nodded along.

“I see. And now you want to try again?”

“Yes… I have a new partner. A wonderful man who I instantly connected with. We’ve been together for half a year and are thinking about the future. I’ve been unable to have a second child and the worry about disappointing Dean and myself is taking a toll on me,” Cas admitted, looking at his fingers instead of facing Mia.

“Is your partner framing it this way? That you would be disappointing him? Or is that thought coming from you?” Mia wondered. Castiel instinctively bristled at the suggestion that Dean would pressure Cas this way.

“It’s me… Dean doesn’t think of it this way.” Mia nodded.

“Hm. How about we just have a look at you. You said on the phone that it’s been a while since your last check up,” Mia suggested and Cas nodded. Mia asked him to get on the examination chair and got through her check-up, chatting with Cas along the way, which did help soothe Cas’ nerves.

“How are your heats? Any issues there?” Mia wanted to know.

“They’re fine. Very regular and easy to manage. I’ve never had to take suppressants.”

“Did your past partner ever get a check up when you encountered issues with having children?” Mia wanted to know. Cas snorted and shook his head.

“The thought that the issue might be him never crossed his mind and he was offended when I suggested it. But he was also not really interested in having a second child since the chances were pretty good that our son would be an alpha, which is what he wanted.”

“Oh wow, one of those alphas then,” Mia said with a snort. Cas could only agree. Mia wrapped up her examinations.

“Well, as far as I can say everything looks fine. I’ll run some more tests and will get back to you in about a week or two,” she said and Cas sagged a bit in relief.

“Oh, good,” Cas said feeling somewhat lightheaded. Mia wrapped the meeting up quickly after that and Cas was free to go, feeling like a weight had been lifted off of his chest.

Dean had to attend a two-day training event at his new job, which left Cas all alone in the new house. It was somewhat odd to be alone, different than it had been back in his sad little apartment or in Dean’s luxurious place. But he had work to distract himself with and after he wrapped it up for the day, he read through the internet page for the Moondoor campaign, which seemed a lot more complicated and detailed than Cas had previously thought. Dean had given Cas Charlie’s number and they had texted a bit about the game, giving him some ideas about his potential character, though Cas felt he wasn’t creative enough to make a good character. Charlie’s answer to that had been:

“Dude. Dean had no idea what to do when he showed up. I made him his character and while he regularly grumbles about it, he’s really into it. So whatever you will pick, the other players will make it fun for you. Don’t worry! 👍”

Castiel was still going to worry, but he did send her a thumbs up back. The moment he put his phone down to read up more on the “lore” for the various Moondoor races and classes, it rang. Cas saw the caller ID and instantly felt nervous. He picked it up after a moment of hesitation.


“Hello, Castiel. This is Mia Vallens,” the caller said. “I’ve got your results if you have a moment?”

“Yes, of course,” Cas answered promptly.

“I only have good news,” she said and Cas relaxed instantly. “Everything looks great, no obvious reasons why you should encounter any problem conceiving.” She paused a moment to allow for her words to sink in. Then she continued: “You know the drill; increased fertility during your heats. Synched cycles make it easier, mating even more so. But nothing’s a guarantee.”

“Yes,” Cas said, feeling giddy now.

“If you and your partner share a couple of heats without success, then I’d like to see both of you and we’ll go from there, alright?”

“Yes, alright. That is wonderful, thank you so much,” Cas said.

“Good luck, Castiel,” Mia said, her voice warm, then they said their good-byes. And now Cas was full of nervous energy. He wished Dean was here to tell him the good news. Should he call him? No, no that would be silly. Dean would be back tomorrow, he should be able to wait that long. So instead he texted Jimmy:

“Green light from the doctor, it seems there is nothing wrong with my reproductive organs.” It took a moment for Jimmy to reply but once he did Cas had to laugh:

“Great! How about we get drunk in celebration. Remember that you can’t drink once you get pregnant.”

“Sure. If you let me crash on your couch afterwards.” Jimmy promised that the couch was all his and then their plans were made.

Spending the night with his brother and sister-in-law had been just what he needed. And even though some mistakes were made and Cas regretted that last drink when he had to step out of the house into the offensively bright and cheery afternoon, it had been great fun. The rest of his hangover dissipated as he made the drive back home to Chicago and he still got some hours of work in before Dean was supposed to be back.

Cas ordered some take out and got a pie from the bakery, glad to be able to welcome Dean back home. Shortly before 6 he saw Dean pull into the driveway and get his car into the garage.

“Honey I’m home!” Dean called through the house, clearly in a very good mood. “And I’ve brought some goodies!” Cas met him in the hallway, finding Dean with his suitcase and a bag with the Roadhouse logo.

“Hello Dean,” Cas greeted, going in for a lingering kiss. Dean grinned against his lips. “What did you bring?”

“Fluffy bathrobes,” Dean said with a grin and then presented them proudly. They were a charcoal color, with the roadhouse logo stitched on the front. Then he turned them around to show Cas the lettering on the back. One Winchester and one Novak.

“I like them,” Cas said with a smile.

“Well, lets put them on. I smell take out so this seems like a good moment to relax and eat on the couch.” Dean really must be in a good mood to allow eating on the couch but Cas wasn’t going to ruin it with a comment about Dean’s usual no food on the couch rule. Dean dashed off to put away his suitcase and Cas took the moment to undress and put on the robe (it was very fluffy) before he prepared the food in the living room.

“Ah, perfect!” Dean said, letting himself fall on the couch with a pleased groan. He closed his eyes, just relaxing, but it was only a moment before he sat back up, rubbed his hands and then grabbed the food. Cas watched all of this with a fond smile.

“It’s good to have you back,” Cas said, taking the plate Dean handed him.

“I was only gone for like 2 days, babe,” Dean laughed, then he sat back, cuddling into Cas’ side. “But same.” Cas still looked down at Dean, watching his face, studying his freckles and the stubble on his chin. After a while he too started eating.

“And what were you up to while I was gone?” Dean asked after he had launched into a lengthy recount of the training (apparently his boss fell asleep on the pool tables in a local bar and almost missed the morning program on the second day).

“I visited Jimmy and Amelia yesterday,” Cas said. “We celebrated because Dr. Vallens called me back and gave me the green light.” Dean stopped eating and looked at Cas with a small frown. But after a moment he was evidently able to place the name.

“That means everything’s okay down there?” Dean asked, pointing his fork towards Cas’ stomach.

“Yes. But sometimes things should work and still don’t. If we spend a couple of heats together and pregnancy doesn’t stick, then she wants to see both of us,” Cas explained. Dean listened attentively, then he grinned.

“That’s great news, Cas,” he said warmly and kissed Cas softly. “Are you relieved?”

“You have no idea,” Cas admitted, laughing. “I feel so much better.” He looked up at Dean, finding him studying with a soft smile.

“Does that mean you want to start trying?” he wondered and Cas couldn’t tell by his tone of voice if Dean was hoping for a yes or a no answer.

“I… I’m actually not sure,” Cas admitted after thinking for a while. Dean brushed some of Cas’ stray hair out of his face. “What about you? What do you want?”

“I think I want to wait until you can give me a very obvious, very enthusiastic yes,” he said with a smile. “I do hope it’ll happen sooner rather than later, but we just uprooted our lives. We just moved, we just got new jobs. We’re not really in a rush here.”

“Hm, I suppose you’re right,” Cas decided, not sure if he should be relieved. His next heat was some months off, maybe he’d be ready by then. Or maybe he wouldn’t be. But he agreed with Dean regarding wanting to get started sooner rather than later.

“I’m on suppressants anyway,” Dean added. “If you want I can stop taking them now, so that my hormones get some time to adjust. But it will take some months… There might be a chance of us synching up though. I read that this make it easier to conceive?”

“Hm, yes…,” Cas said. “Okay. Go off your suppressants. Just in case I will be ready.” He then tilted his head. “I wonder what you’re like during rut.” Dean groaned.

“Not very coherent. There’s a reason I’m taking suppressants,” he said.

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Cas said, trailing off though when Dean just came closer until they were nose to nose and Cas had to go almost cross-eyed to still look at him.

“If you’ll take care of me, I’ll be anything but uncomfortable,” he said, his voice low. Cas felt his face heat up, especially when Dean’s hand went under the hem of his bathrobe, trailing up his leg.

“Of course, I’ll take care of you,” Cas whispered.

“Good,” Dean said, then he licked the tip of Cas’ nose. Cas pushed Dean off the couch in retaliation.

For the first time in roughly 20 years Dean regretted the Winchester family alpha-vaganza birthday tradition.

“It’s silly actually,” Dean said with a deep sigh. “Just Dad, Sam and me getting drunk off our asses and calling it a manly bonding experience. I could spend it with you. Make it the special omega birthday bash with you and mom?” Castiel laughed but never stopped folding the laundry.

“Since when are you an omega?”

“For you I’d be anything, babe,” Dean said with a wink that had Cas momentarily pause. He sent Dean a long contemplative look that Dean didn’t know what to do with but in the end Cas huffed.

“I like you just fine as an alpha,” he finally decided. Dean had to laugh at that. “And don’t worry Dean. It’s good to have things you do with your brother and father. Jack and Luke have bonding rituals too, tough I hope the trip to Vegas thing he and Gabriel tried to establish won’t make it as a tradition…”

“Even if, I don’t really see Jack going on a bender,” Dean said and even though he tried, his brain immediately blocked out the mere though. Nah, that wasn’t Jack. Cas made a non-committal sound in the back of his throat that came across as somewhat doubtful, but then he finished folding the laundry and handed Dean the hamper to carry up to their room.

“It’s just… 40th birthday and all that. Shouldn’t I be spending it with my boyfriend?” Dean asked.

“Dean, you should spend it exactly like you want to spend it. You don’t have to feel guilty,” Cas told him as they walked out of the basement. “You’ll still be 40 when you come back.”

“Ouch,” Dean laughed though he actually didn’t care. He had his midlife crisis behind him, now he was looking forward to the next decade together with Cas. He knew his 40s would be amazing. “But I guess…” Cas helped Dean pack his luggage to haul to the airport later. They were gonna go to New York, mostly because his dad hated New York. The last time they went as a family Dean came home with some funny but inappropriate stories that still made John cringe to this day. Truth to be told, bothering their dad was one of the main attractions of the Winchester alpha-vaganza unless it was his birthday and he tormented them with either softball or camping in Uncle Bobby’s cabin.

Once he was actually at the airport with Cas, Dean was jittery both with excitement but also nerves about having to fly and he was glad that Cas kept a level head, taking over the handling of the luggage and figuring out where Dean had to go. He even let Cas’ jokes that he clearly still needed an assistant to manage his flights pass.

“Just don’t drink too much,” Cas warned Dean, using his dad voice on him. Dean found it in himself to roll his eyes.

“I’m not 25 anymore and Dad no longer drinks. It won’ be too bad,” Dean vowed. “Once Jack is of age, he can join and keep an eye on me. We’ll make it a three generations thing.” Cas smiled at that and Dean felt very reluctant to leave without Cas. “You can join too. It’s not like it has to be an alpha party.”

“Dean, I said it’s fine,” Cas said with a laugh, then he pulled something out of his jacket. Dean looked at the envelope curiously. “Your present. Don’t open it before your birthday.”

“Aww, thank you,” Dean said and kissed Cas. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” They hugged until Dean’s phone pinged with an alarm that told him if he didn’t get his ass moving, he’d miss his plane. But would that be so bad? He was very comfortable in Cas’ arms. Cas gave him a nudge.

“Have fun, say hello to John and Sam,” Cas said, waving at Dean when he reluctantly started moving. He lifted his hand, then he had to turn around. But it was fine, he knew he wouldn’t be gone for long.

Dean started his 40th birthday with a light hangover and multiple messages to go through. He had splurged on a great hotel and he felt like he was on a cloud, the bed was that nice. He had breakfast delivered and decided to spend the morning in his bathrobe until Sam (who had certainly had way too much to drink yesterday) and his dad were up. With probably still an hour to leisure around his room, he fetched Cas’ present from his suitcase and turned the thick envelope around, trying to get a clue of what was inside. Eventually he gave up and opened it up. The first thing he pulled out was a thick piece of paper with Cas’ neat handwriting. The paper was decorated in a way that gave it a distinct dated feel for Dean. Surely that was simply coincidence and Cas was trying out being creative again.

“My dearest Dean

I hope you have a wonderful birthday. I thought about getting you something that you could use on your journey to the big city, but then decided that I’d much rather see you enjoy your present.

I hope to see you return to our family farm soon and await your return.

I love you,

Yours faithfully Castiel

P.S. Yee-haw”

“Yee-haw?” Dean asked out loud, frowning, also at the weird things the letter said. Family farm? What? Then he pulled the other paper out of the envelope. A couple of words in he started laughing and things clicked. Cas had gotten them reservation for something Cas called a “cowboy experience” in the margins of the print out. A romantic get-away in a retreat that had been built to mimic a wild west town, where Dean could wear cowboy boots, shoot at cans, ride horses and watch reenactments of the Wild West life to his heart’s content. And wow, he had no idea that Cas knew about his interest in cowboys (not that he tried to hide it, but he was not obvious about it either!)

“I love you,” Dean said the moment Cas picked up his phone. Dean’s heart swelled more when he heard Cas laugh into the receiver. If someone offered right now to fly him back to be by Cas’ side just to see him he would ditch his dad and Sam.

“I guess you opened your present?”

“I loved you before as well, but yes,” Dean said with a grin. “How did you know that I’d be into this?”

“I asked Charlie for some ideas,” Cas said. Charlie, of course. If someone knew about all of his nerdy interests, it was her. They talked some more, until Sam rose from the dead (okay, he didn’t look that bad, but his grimace was still hilarious) and they had to plan their day. Both Sam and Dean were actually not super enthused about another day of drinking, so they decided to simply have some fun, look at some touristy stuff, be cultured. All of them (even his dad) enjoyed themselves.

They were walking down the street to find a nice place to eat when Dean slowed down his walk, captivated by the window of a jewelry store. They promoted their wedding ring selection and Dean couldn’t help looking.

“Do you want to go in?” John asked, startling Dean. Of course, he wasn’t here alone and shouldn’t be spacing out like that but Sam was grinning at Dean and his dad wore a small smile too. And suddenly Dean felt himself blushing.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “It’s just… You know. Cas is the love of my life and he got me a great present and I just… you know.” Dean made some vague gestures, hoping that they would distract the other two from his babbling.

“Relax, son. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. I was in your shoes, Sam was in your shoes. It’s all fine,” John said, then he marched past Dean and into the store.

“Just have a look around, maybe you find the perfect ring right away. And just because you have the ring, doesn’t mean you’ll have to ask yet,” Sam said, which Dean supposed was a good enough argument, so he let himself be pulled into the store as well. Dean didn’t end up finding the perfect ring and had absolutely no idea what the perfect ring even was, but he knew, for sure, that he had to find it.

He knew, right there in some random New York street, that he would ask Cas to marry him soon. He carried that knowledge with him the entire day, feeling light and almost drunk on happiness the entire day. It did of course falter a bit when he had to get in the plane that night taking him back home.

It was close to midnight when he finally wheeled his suitcase out, feeling grimy and exhausted and still slightly nauseous because of the flight, but then there Cas was, slightly rumpled and bundled up in his puffy winter jacket, holding a giant bunch of flowers. Dean’s heart swelled immediately and this urge to drop to his knees right away, beg Cas to take him as his husband and mate was almost overwhelming. Luckily for his dignity he had no ring yet, so all he could do was said a wobbly:

“Hey Cas.”

“Welcome home. Happy birthday,” Cas said, giving him a soft kiss before exchanging Dean’s suitcase for the flowers. “How was your trip?”

“Amazing. Eye-opening,” Dean admitted, putting an arm around Cas’ shoulder, and Cas sent him a gentle smile. “But I can’t wait to get back home.”

Chapter Text

The next months were almost too busy for Dean to appreciate that little flower buds were starting to show up in their backyard. Back when he had been a child the appearance of the first flowers of spring had been a magical moment to him, that he had always kept track of almost obsessively, sticking his fingers into the soil, looking for the green treasures. And even though he hadn’t been able to look out for flower buds since college for lack of a garden, he still didn’t really have the time to enjoy it now. Work was challenging but also exciting, with their first big project coming up. And so the first flowers showed up in their garden and all of a sudden it was Spring when Dean left the house one morning to go to work.

Dean had been looking forward to March with both anticipation and apprehension. One of the biggest LARPing events of the country would be taking place this month and Cas had insisted that both of them take part of it, so Dean could actually enjoy what he had been working on so hard. Cas took a couple of days off of work and Dean’s presence was expected by both the Queen and Dr. Badass anyway. The idea was for them to spend the entire campaign there and participate in as many events as possible. Dean of course would still be doing some behind the scenes delegation but he hoped to keep them to a minimum, especially with the added distraction of his boyfriend trying out LARPing for the first time.

Since Roadhouse was the main sponsor of the event, Dean had seen set designs, he’d done all the community outreach together with his mentor Jo so he knew exactly what to expect, and yet when he and Cas were standing at the gates that led them into Moondoor, he still couldn’t quite believe how amazing it was.

“Wow,” Cas said, next to him, his voice awed. “It looks like a movie set.” The gates into Moondoor looked like a proper town gate, with dressed staff members checking tickets and giving information. The entire wide-reaching area was fenced off, to make sure it would be a super immersive experience and while non players were welcome to attend the renaissance fair part of the campaign, they wouldn’t be letting in anyone (not even the camera team Dean had organized) who wasn’t at least somewhat dressed for the occasion. For the integrity of the scene, Ash had claimed. Dean hadn’t been particularly happy about that as the sales and marketing director, but as a player? It sounded awesome! And now that he saw that nothing was burning (figuratively) and that it really looked as amazing as he had hoped, Dean could admit to himself that he was slowly starting to relax a bit and look forward to the next couple of days.

“Okay, let’s check in and get into character,” Dean said, slapping Cas’ ass to get a move on. Cas still seemed somewhat intimidated, but eventually he nodded and followed Dean. They both got registered separately and met up again once they were inside. And it was amazing inside. Dean had seen his fair share of renaissance fairs and LARPing events, but this one really felt like he had stepped into a fantasy movie. He and Cas, still dressed like normal people, did stand out here. There was a sign post pointed them towards the dressing rooms and the various Moondoor relevant locations. When Dean sent Cas a look, the poor guy looked pretty overwhelmed, clutching his little welcome pack with maps and rules to his chest.

“Well, let’s get dressed. I’ll have to go see the Queen to prepare for the opening ceremony,” Dean said and checked his watch. “You’ll have to go through one of the tutorials with your guild as a newbie, so we probably won’t see each other until the ceremony. Will you be alright on your own?”

“Yes Dean, it’ll be fine,” Castiel promised with a smile. Dean was somewhat unsure about it even though Cas had told him beforehand that he wanted Dean to enjoy himself and not have to stick to Cas’ side all of the time. Truth to be told, Dean was really excited to get back into his role and pick up where he left off all those months ago.

They went to the changing rooms which were located in what looked to be stables and a little post office attached to it serving as a waiting room. Dean and Cas each took one of the changing rooms and Cas sent him a little wave before he closed the door behind himself. Dean pulled his suitcase and his props into the room and locked the door. He looked around, appreciating the nice decoration and attention to detail even in here. He grinned into the mirror feeling his excitement growing. Time to become Spears.

It always took Dean a while to get dressed and he expected that Cas would have to wait for him. He wiped the long hair of his blonde wig out of his face, then pulled his suitcase with him into the direction of the waiting room, where some people were sitting around, looking at their phones for the last time because they got locked into the “vault” along with their luggage. Cas had been super secretive about his character and even though Dean had pestered Charlie for information, she had also been tight-lipped. Dean wasn’t entirely sure what he should be looking for. Would Cas have on a wig? Be painted red in Moondoor colors? He knew that Cas had ordered something online, but he hadn’t seen more than a midnight blue cloak. So he looked out for that and eventually did see Cas sitting on a bench, studying the welcome pamphlet with a very intense look. Dean approached him with an easy grin, not yet in character, but he was surprised as Cas looked up. He wasn’t wearing a wig, his hair charmingly tousled as always, but he had pointy ears on.

“You’re an elf?” Dean asked, almost in disbelief. Cas got up from the chair, giving Dean a good look at his costume. He had on black trousers and leather boots, a white shirt and a vest over it. And of course the cloak with the phases of the moon across the shoulder blades thrown over the outfit.

“Yes?” Cas asked, clearly unsure how to interpret Dean’s staring. “It seemed like the most interesting race. I can be a human in real life.” Dean had to laugh at that. “Why are you surprised?”

“I don’t know. I just thought you would want to hang out with me, at least at the end of the day,” Dean said. A crease appeared between Cas’ eyebrows.


“The different races have different quarters. And the elves aren’t staying in the center of Moondoor. They’re in the Arcane Forest.” Cas’ face fell. Dean felt kind of bad for his boyfriend. “Sorry buddy.”

“You mean we won’t be sharing sleeping quarters?” Cas asked.

“I fear so. I can’t just let an elf come close to the Queen’s quarters like that. Not unless you’ve sworn your allegiance to the Queen of Moondoor. But if you go through your newbie tutorial, you’ll find it won’t be too easy,” Dean explained. And then, putting on a very serious expression, he added: “You’re an elf now, Cas. I’m a man.”

“That’s very unfortunate,” Cas decided with a grumble but Dean wasn’t too worried that Cas was truly upset.

“Should I have a look at your character sheet? Maybe I can give you some tips before I’m heading to the Queen’s tent? Though I’ve never played as an elf,” Dean offered, but Cas shook his head.

“It’s fine, Dean. I will figure it out,” Cas promised.

“If you’re sure,” Dean said, which got a nod. “Well, then I guess we’ll take our stuff to the vault and show up at our respective camps,” Dean suggested. Cas nodded, trailing after Dean towards the building where they could exchange money into the Moondoor currency. Since Cas was a newbie and didn’t want to “cheat” he started out with very little money, just the recommended amount for new players to get through the tutorial and low-level quests.

“Sleeping quarters are free, unless you sleep in the inn,” the elf at the vault explained, while Cas was carefully putting his Moondoor money away in a little satchel that he hung to his belt. “Every day you’ll be allowed to get a small amount of items from Dr. Badass’ medicine tent, so unless you go on quests above your level, you shouldn’t have to spend much money on items. You will be able to earn money with quests or by offering your services and you can always come back and exchange more money if you want.”

“Thank you,” Castiel said with a nod, then he followed Dean outside. It was still chilly, with the wind blowing. Castiel wrapped his coat around himself but otherwise looked on stoically. The sound recording of church bells rang through the air, signaling the time now that anything looking like modern watches were banned.

“I guess that’s my sign,” Dean said, then he studied Cas who tilted his head at him. “Well, one last act that’s out of character and then I’ll be gone.” Dean reached out and pulled Cas close, kissing him softly.

“Are you telling me I won’t get to kiss you again for the duration of the event?” Castiel asked the moment Dean had withdrawn enough to see Cas’ frown. Dean laughed, but didn’t answer, instead he winked and turned around. “See you around, elf!”

“My name is Arosa,” Cas called after him, a beat later. Dean turned around, studying Cas.

“That’s a weird name,” he said but Cas’ warning look told him to better get going.

Dean took his time walking towards the Queen’s quarters, enjoying the atmosphere of the early campaign days. They weren’t having a battle campaign unless someone declared war, so Dean expected to be doing quests, instead of battling orcs and defending the queen’s reign. There were plenty of stalls this year, selling all kinds of goods, and he also spotted players having claimed some empty stall space in order to earn a bit more Moondoor money. He walked past the medicine tent, which had an open front, giving Dean a good view of Dr. Badass lounging about.

“Spears! I haven’t seen you in a long while!” Dr. Badass called the moment he noticed Dean. Dean rolled his eyes and walked up to him. “I feared that you were rotting away in some Shadow Orc’s dungeon!”

“Doctor,” he greeted and Ash winked at him, before he reached into the apothecary’s shelf behind him. His tent looked nice this year, properly decorated, a clear upgrade to what he usually had. Dr. Badass handed Dean a couple of healing potions.

“Your rations, handmaiden,” Ash said, then he looked Dean up and down. “Where’s your other half?” Dean put his potions into the bag he wore at his belt.

“What other half?” Dean asked.

“Right, you’re always in character, I forgot,” Ash said, then he lay back down on the bed reserved for his customers. “Well, wake me when the festivities start.” With that Dean was dismissed and he made his way to the Queen’s tent. As expected, Charlie was full of energy, shrieking in delight when Dean came into the tent.

“Handmaiden! I’m so happy to see you!” she exclaimed and gave him a fierce hug. She was dressed in a regal looking robe, not the usual more casual soldier uniform she preferred.

“And I you, Queen,” Dean said, earning himself an immediate grin. “What are your plans?”

“First I’m going to fill you in on all the things you have missed while you were trapped in Shadow Orc dungeons!”

“I was NOT trapped in Shadow Orc dungeons! Don’t make up story lines for me!” Dean grumbled, but Charlie was undeterred by his protests.

“Opening ceremony in a bit, then I was thinking we could do the prep for the Shadow Orc quest if you’re up to it? I wanted to do it last time but without my handmaiden it’s only half as funny!”

“Also because your other team members are incompetent,” Dean offered with a small grin. Charlie huffed.

“Hey now, that’s mean!” she objected. “But yeah, I guess.”

“I’ve already stocked up on potions at Dr. Badass’, but I haven’t picked up any other items.”

“Great! So we’ll do that! Oooh, I can’t wait, Spears! This is going to be so much fun!” Dean smiled at her, then – dutiful handmaiden that he was – he helped her get ready for the big opening ceremony.

Dean didn’t see a lot of Cas on that first day of the campaign. He kept his eyes open during the opening ceremony but while he spotted Hinnerk the Valiant, the current leader of the elves, he didn’t see Cas’ blue coat in the mass of people. After the ceremony he and Charlie had some food at one of the many stalls, before they started doing the preparation for their quest. Dean had missed a lot of things that had happened since his last LARPing event, so while he was going around the booths to stock up on potions and magic and other items, he often got side tracked by conversations.

“Handmaiden!” Dean had just managed to break free from a long, involved conversation about hair care (wig styling really) when someone else called for his attention. Boltar the Furious was stomping up to him, as always with his sour expression.

“Boltar,” Dean said mildly, but the herald only frowned at him. Clearly, he was still sore that the Queen wasn’t into him and the whole “she’s a lesbian, Gerry” hadn’t really gotten through to him yet.

“I have a message for the handmaiden of our Queen of the moons!” Boltar announced, sounding very important. “An elf by the name Arosa has requested a meeting with you at the inn.” Having delivered his message, the herald eyed Dean suspiciously.

“A clandestine meeting with an elf? Fraternizing with the enemy, handmaiden? Are you going behind our queen’s interests? Hm?” Boltar asked, almost shoving his rolled-up scroll into Dean’s chest accusingly.

“Since you have announced it for all of Moondoor to hear, it can hardly be called clandestine. And last I knew the elves were not our enemies, Boltar. There are various reasons why one of them might seek out my company,” Dean answered. Boltar narrowed his eyes.

“Things could have changed while you were the Shadow Orc’s prisoner!”

“I was NOT-“ Dean started but Boltar talked over him.

“I am watching you, handmaiden,” he warned, but then his attention swayed away. “No cellphones in Moondoor! Go to the time loop tent if you must use your witchcraft!” he shouted and rushed off to bother some poor newbie.

Dean heaved a relieved sigh when Boltar was gone. Cas must have figured out the rules of the campaign to know that if he wanted to get a hold of Dean, using one of the heralds was the best option. Of course, Cas could have tried to stroll up to him, but it was likely that someone (most likely Boltar) might have stopped him from getting into the Seat of the Queen part of the camp. There were quests you could do or levels you could reach to give you free movement even within locations that were technically off limit to you, but Dean doubted Cas had levelled that much in just one afternoon.

“Queen? I have a meeting at the inn,” Dean said once he found Charlie flirting with a vendor. Charlie managed to disengage from the conversation and turned to look at Dean with a grin.

“Oh? Do you? At the inn, one of the places where people of different races can easily meet? That inn?” Charlie asked with a suggestive wink. When Dean just looked at her with an unimpressed face, Charlie laughed. “Always so serious, Spears! But alright! We will continue our preparation for the quest tomorrow, before the tournament! Don’t be out too late, Spears!”

“Of course,” Dean answered, then he was on his way to the inn. Roadhouse had built a temporary building with a functioning kitchen and some dormitory rooms for the occasion. It looked deliberately run down and shady and Dean loved it. Of course, it was clean and comfortably warm inside, with low music playing from hidden speakers. Castiel was sitting in a corner, the hood of his cloak pulled into his face. All he needed was a bit of dirt and a pipe and he would make a good Aragorn impression. But the moment Cas spotted Dean, his face lit up and he lifted his hand.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Who’s Dean?” Dean retorted, mostly to annoy Cas. “Come on, be in character. We don’t know each other.” Cas pouted but then he waved his hand at Dean.

“Fine, go to the bar,” Cas grumbled. Dean had to laugh but was curious what Cas was going to do so he complied. He saw Cas get up out of the corner of his eye and before long he approached him, his expression very serious under the edge of his hood.

“Hello stranger,” Cas said, sounding somewhat wooden. “Do you come to this fine establishment often?” Dean almost burst out laughing. “What?” Cas grumbled, so clearly some of Dean’s amusement must have shown.

“Are you Arosa?” Dean challenged. “Boltar has sent me your message. It said that you wanted to meet.”

“Yes,” Cas said but he wasn’t forthcoming with anything else, clearly not having thought of a particularly character driven reason why he wanted to see Dean. Dean decided to have mercy on him.

“Well then, Arosa. Can I buy you something to eat?”

“Yes please. I find myself low on funds,” Cas admitted and then studied the menu with Dean. They ended getting meat pies, much to Dean’s delight, and retreated to a little table with their food and drinks.

“Mm, it’s good,” Cas said and Dean couldn’t quite stop himself from brushing his knee against Cas’ under the table.

“How are you liking it so far?” Dean asked, deciding they could drop the role playing for the moment.

“It’s entertaining,” Castiel said.

“Yeah? Any quests you did?” Cas narrowed his eyes at him.

“I have been sworn to secrecy by my tribe,” he said enigmatically, which had Dean laugh. Of course, Hinnerk would do that. “But I have also done the introduction quest. It was a bit like a scavenger hunt all over the campaign grounds. I enjoyed it.”

“That’s great. I was hoping you would,” Dean said with a smile.

“What about you? Is your work as the handmaiden demanding?”

“No, it’s fun. I’m preparing to go on one of the higher-level quests with Charlie tomorrow. And we will also train some people for Charlie’s guard. Which is basically just some fake sword fighting, which I’m rather good at.” They chatted a bit more, Cas giving his comments on the organization for the newbie quest. Once they were done eating and out of the inn, night was already falling and it was getting cold.

“Can we still spend some more time together? Maybe I could come watch you sword fight tomorrow?” Cas asked.

“Nope, the rules are the rules,” Dean insisted. “I can’t just bring an elf to the training of the guard! Not before you have won the favor of the Queen!”

“But I can’t do that. My level isn’t high enough to even request an audience,” Cas whined, which Dean found very endearing. Cas huffed in annoyance, but then he stared up at Dean. “Spears, you are very beautiful and your hair shines like… starlight.”

“Uh, thank you,” Dean answered, taking aback by Cas’ awkward flirting.

“It is cold. We elves are less affected by the weather than humans. Can I offer you my coat?” he continued.

“That is very chivalrous of you, but I am the handmaiden of the Queen. I can handle the evening air,” Dean said, even though it was getting chilly. But he certainly didn’t want Cas to give him his coat and walk back to his tent without it.

“Then allow me to accompany you to the boundaries of your home,” Cas offered and it was clear to Dean that he didn’t want to say good-bye yet. Which Dean got. He didn’t really want to say good-bye either. So they walked towards his tent, close enough to almost brush shoulders.

“This is as far as you can come, elf,” Dean said, but before Cas could pout, Dean decided to break character so he could kiss Cas. Cas leaned into the kiss, pressing another shorter one to Dean’s lips when Dean was drawing back. “Just so we’re clear; that was Dean kissing Cas. Spears is not that easy to win.”

“Hm, alright,” Cas answered with a soft smile. He reached out to squeeze Dean’s hand, his palms soothingly warm. “Good-night, Dean.”

“Night, Cas,” Dean whispered back. Cas reluctantly let go of his hand, but after he had, he pulled his hood over his head and made his way back. Well, he might struggle to act, but he did look pretty convincing as he stalked away into the night.

“Dork,” Dean said to himself, smiling fondly.

Dr. Badass shot Dean a disapproving look as he and Charlie showed up at his medicine tent.

“So… you are telling me that the Queen’s handmaiden got poisoned in an orc attack? And neither of you thought to bring antidotes with you?” Dr. Badass asked and both Dean and Charlie looked at the floor sheepishly.

“We had enough potions to keep Spear’s life up,” Charlie said defensively. Dr. Badass shook his head, playing up his disapproval.

“I always tell everyone to go on quests with a full inventory! Antidotes belong in a full inventory! Ergo, not having an antidote in your bag means that you have not done your quest preparation properly! I respect the daredevil attitude, it’s fun and our local necromancers need a job, but it’s not what I expected of you two.”

“Alright, Dr. Badass. We get it. What now?” Dean asked, trying to get this moving along. He handed Ash the sheet where they were tracking their progress and stats during the quest. Monty the Orc, who was filling in the role as quest boss, had really dealt them a lot of damage. Ash made a big deal out of studying it.

“Well, it looks like you were severely poisoned. It will administer the antidote and then you’ll have no other choice but to recover. Which means you’re on quest timeout for the rest of the day!” Ash declared. Dean groaned in displeasure.

“I’m sorry, Spears,” Charlie said with a small laugh, clearly not feeling all that sorry that Dean would have to wait for the time to pass before he could go on another quest. It wasn’t horrible, considering there were still a lot of things to do, but it threw a wrench in their plans.

Charlie decided to sit in the tent with Dean and Ash for a while, discussing the pretty difficult quest and what they could do better on their next attempt. But after a while Charlie decided she wanted to participate in some games and Ash had other “patients” to treat. Eventually, Dean got bored and decided that he might as well go to the time loop tent to catch up on the outside world.

He made a detour to the town square, where he found an elf lady who was willing to take a message back to the Arcane Woods, so Cas knew what was happening. Then he grabbed a burger at one of the food stalls and made his way to the time loop tent to get on the computer. He might as well do some work or answer to messages while he was here.

It was early evening, the sky still bright and the sun warming Dean as he sat on one of the benches, butt comfortably cushioned by the wool thrown over the bench, and kept toasty warm both by blankets and the cup of mead in his hands.

“Handmaiden!” Dean groaned internally, but he turned to where Boltar’s voice had come from. He was surprised to see that Boltar had company. Castiel was keeping in step with him, until Boltar stopped, putting his hand out to keep Cas from going on. “Wait here, elf of no name!”

“I do have a name,” Castiel told him, clearly not impressed by the hand Boltar was pushing against his chest. Dean wasn’t particular thrilled either that Boltar had his hands on his boyfriend.

“Handmaiden, this elf has requested to speak to you. I will send him away from the premises, to protect your integrity, if you so wish” Boltar said.

“Boltar, calm down,” Dean said with a roll of his eyes. He put his cup down on the bench, leaving the comfortable cocoon of warmth. “He’s my boyfriend,” Dean told Boltar in a whisper.

“Oh, alright,” Boltar said, only quickly breaking character. “I do have to stick to the rules. He is an elf, and you’re the Queen’s handmaiden.”

“That’s alright. I find it amusing,” Castiel assured them both. After a beat, Boltar cleared his throat, shifting back into character. “I will keep my eyes on you, elf! If you misbehave then you will be sent to the stocks!”

“Understood,” Castiel said but he had his eyes on Dean, intense as always and Dean was tempted to falter under the hot look and just make out with Cas right there and then. But no. He was Spears, not Dean. “I have received your message that you have been poisoned. I was worried,” Cas said, somewhat stiffly. “I am glad that I find you here instead of in the necromancer’s den.”

“Dr. Badass has administered an antidote. I will recover in time,” Dean answered with a shrug.

“Still. When I learnt of your affliction I did my research,” Castiel said and reached into the bag at his hip. Dean saw it was empty but for one thing, Cas apparently having used up all his daily potions. He pulled out a plastic coin, which he presented to Dean.

“The Hollow Tree Token,” Boltar commented from the sidelines. Dean had forgotten that he was even there.

“The what?” Dean asked. Boltar rolled his eyes and opened his scroll, which contained a list of all items that could be bought or won on the quest. “It’s a reward that Moon Elves of the Cleric class can win. But it’s a pretty difficult quest, requiring at least a medium level.” Boltar eyed Cas. “Did you get it on the black market by a Shadow Orc dealer?” He rolled up his scroll and then pointed it at Cas’ face. “Suspicious!”

“No, I won it for De -  I mean Spears, the fair handmaiden of the Queen.”

“You can drop the fair,” Dean grumbled. “And you chill out, Boltar. You won the Hollow Tree Token for me?”

“Yes,” Cas insisted, holding it out to Dean again. “This is a healing charm. It will free you from your sickbed and make you immune to poison.” Dean eventually took the token.

“Thank you. Though now I find myself honor bound to offer you a favor in return,” Dean said and put the coin in his bag, to be later put on his stat list. Castiel’s mouth ticked up into a smile.

“Then I would like to require an audience with the Queen,” he said, then he tilted his head. “And your presence at the inn again tonight. If you are willing?”

“Fine, you have yourself a deal,” Dean said. “I will inform you of the Queen’s decision later tonight.” Castiel nodded, then he turned around without another word and left.

“What could he possibly want from the Queen?” Boltar mused, but then he sent Dean a very exaggerated wink, before he too left, probably to bother someone else.

Thinking about it, this was actually pretty sweet of Cas to go through all the trouble of earning this coin for him. He just hoped that Cas hadn’t used his real money to buy stuff on the black market.

Dean walked to Dr. Badass’ tent to convince the doctor of his miraculous cure and to get his stuff back. Ash eyed the token curiously, but in the end he shrugged and released Dean from his time out. Charlie was more excited when Dean showed her the token.

“That is so sweet! Do you think Arosa did the quest for you? Even though it’s so dangerous for inexperienced people?” Charlie said.

“Boltar thinks he got it off the black market,” Dean suggested when he and Charlie went through their inventories more thoroughly this time, to give their quest another go. “By the way, in exchange for the token, he asked for an audience with you.”

“Oh, did he now?” Charlie asked with a grin. “Maybe he wants permission to court you! How sweet! But it will be a blow to the many suitors you have!” Dean rolled his eyes. “We’ll squeeze him in tomorrow before we swear in the guard!”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll let him know,” Dean decided, then he checked his inventory again. “Ready?” Charlie grinned and lifted her sword.


Dean made his way over to the inn later that day for his dinner date with Cas. Cas was there already, brooding in the corner of the room. Or not actually brooding. Cas looked cheerful, especially once he spotted Dean. He pulled his hood down and Dean was hit again by how cute the dude was, with his little ears and the little glued on pointy teeth, making them look almost as sharp as an alpha’s. It would be hot, if Cas wasn’t grinning so widely, showing them off.

“So, you earned your fangs, Rosa.”

“It’s Arosa,” Cas reminded him. “With an A.”

“Sure,” Dean drawled easily. “The Queen granted your request for an audience. Tomorrow, at 2.” Castiel’s smile widened and he seemed victorious.

“Thank you,” Cas answered. Dean nodded at him, then he motioned for him to get up. They went to the bar to order something to eat and then sat back down at their table with their plates loaded with burgers and fries.

“How did you manage to do a medium quest on your own? You haven’t levelled that much yet, have you?” Dean asked, dropping the acting for a moment because he was curious. “Did you get it off the black market?”

“No,” Cas answered and watched Dean steal a fry off his plate even though there were plenty of fries on Dean’s. “It turns out accountants make good strategists. With the proper status altering items and spells it was doable even with a low level. I used up almost all of my money and items though.”

“Hm. Impressive,” Dean said.

“Apparently,” Cas said though there was no hint of boasting in his tone. “I did get into trouble with my superiors for not presenting the charm to one of my own,” Castiel admitted and Dean looked up at him in surprise. “I was put into the stocks for half an hour, though it wasn’t too bad. I took the time to explain my strategy to winning the quest to some people, so that was nice. I feel I contributed something to the wellbeing of my tribe, despite my insubordination in the name of romance.”

“Aww, Cas. You’re such a rebel,” Dean said and ruffled Cas’ hair fondly. “And all that trouble for me.”

“Of course. I didn’t want you to get bored,” Cas said, smiling at him.

Once their plates were mostly empty, Cas spoke up again. “I will grab my phone at the vault and then head over to the computer tent later. I want to know how Jack’s doing. What about you? Do you have to go back soon?”

“Nah, I have time to come with you,” Dean said.

Dinner completed, they headed over to the time loop tent. They face timed Jack, who was excited to see them in costume and then started a lengthy explanation of what he and Maggie were doing for their group project in one of their classes. Dean opted out of the conversation after a while to hang out on the internet, catching up on news. A couple of minutes later he felt Cas’ hand gently on his shoulder before he sat down in the chair next to Dean, leaning in to look at the computer screen.

“And? Jack’s doing alright?”

“Yes, he’s alright. He’s going to Grandma Millie’s tomorrow together with Maggie for lunch.”

“Good boy,” Dean said approvingly and Cas agreed. He seemed somewhat sleepy, his head dropping to Dean’s shoulder. “Do you want to head back to camp?”

“Yes, I guess. I have to shower before bed,” Cas sighed, then he got up and stretched. “I do notice that I’m not as young as I used to be. My back hurts from lying on those cots.”

“Yeah, it’s LARPing, buddy, not glamping,” Dean said and logged himself out of the computer.

“I don’t know that that is,” Cas said, then he pulled his hood over his head once they left the tent.

“You’re so cute when you try to be mysterious,” Dean admitted. He reached out and took Cas’ hand in his, pulling him close.

“I’m trying to play a role,” Cas said, content to have Dean wrap his hands around his waist underneath his cloak. “And I bought this cloak for a reason.”

“It looks good on you, babe,” Dean admitted and leant down to kiss his forehead, then his cheek.

“And I do like your hair. Maybe you should let yours grow a bit,” Cas said, petting Dean’s wig. It was getting a bit tangled and Dean was always quick to remember why he didn’t like the damn thing all that much, even though it looked nice.

“That’s not gonna happen,” Dean said with a laugh, then he kissed Cas on his lips, gently nibbling on them.

“Get a tent!” someone shouted at them, followed by a whistle and laughter. Dean groaned but pulled away from Cas, who seemed disgruntled about the interruption.

“I suppose we should head back,” Dean suggested, “before we get an even bigger audience.”

“Fine,” Cas said with a heavy sigh. “See you tomorrow, Dean.” Cas gave him a chaste good-night kiss, then he was on his way back to the vault to lock up his phone.

Dean watched him leave, then he returned to his own tent he shared with Charlie. She was still out, so Dean got out of the clothing and the wig. He rubbed through his flattened hair, then he turned towards his bag with his clothes to put on his custom-made nightgown and nightcap, featuring the Moondoor logo. Maybe, if Cas would swear allegiance to the Queen, he’d get him one too.

Even though Dean had been remarkably nervous about letting Cas see this somewhat unusual hobby, he was really enjoying himself now. That Cas was trying to participate in the things that brought Dean joy was very sweet and he seemed to have a great time here too, independent of Dean. And just thinking of Cas, carefully making his character, with his adorable ears and dorky cloak, and apparent expert understanding of game strategy, filled Dean with a warm happiness and love.

“What’s with that sappy smile?” Charlie asked, breaking through Dean’s thoughts. “Did you make out with Cas?”

“What? No. And you’re one to speak. I saw you with that girl behind the showers,” Dean said, feeling slightly embarrassed. Charlie on the other hand had no shame. She grinned cheekily. “But I was thinking about how nice it is that Cas wants to share my hobbies with me.”

“Yeah, it is cute. He doesn’t really seem like the kind of guy who would enjoy this. But then again, most of us don’t.”

“Ash does,” Dean shot back and Charlie had to laugh. “But yeah… I didn’t really think Cas was the kind of dude who would be into this either. He’s… you know… a dad.” Charlie snorted. “I don’t mean this in a bad way! But Cas has been so busy just being a dad, that he hasn’t really allowed himself any hobbies. Now that Jack’s at college, Cas is still looking for who he is outside of fatherhood.”

“Like you. Who were you outside of Sandover?” Charlie challenged but Dean didn’t even have to say anything in his defense, so he shrugged his shoulders. “It’s good that you both are trying to figure this out. It’s healthy. And it’s fun.”

“Yeah,” Dean admitted, then he got into his cot, happy about the luxuries of being the Queen’s right hand (and the director of marketing and sales for Roadhouse). His bed was really comfortable. Poor Cas was probably sleeping on straw. “Cas is really cute too as his character. And he got those little fangs to glue on his teeth. You know the early level attack boost item? He seemed really proud of them.”

“Aw. You’re so smitten, it’s sweet!”

“Yeah, I am,” Dean admitted proudly.

The Queen holding audiences was always a fun event because while it was introduced as a prompt for people to do story progression for their characters, most players invented ridiculous things to bring in front of the Queen for fun. Like squabbling about imaginary chicken or advocating for the rights of some made up fantasy creature. And Charlie was excellent at playing along, quite a bit better than Dean who struggled not to break character when something particularly funny happened. The entertainment value of the whole affair was also why there was always a crowd. Even though there were so many people around, Cas was easy to spot in the group of people who were here requesting an audience. Charlie elbowed him in the ribs.

“I saw him,” he hissed at her. Charlie was sitting on a throne out in the open, wearing her dress and her crown.

“Who wants to speak to the Queen next?” she called into the crowd and Boltar was right there with his important looking scroll.

“The elf Arosa is requesting your audience,” he said. Cas got up from his bench and stepped forward. Dean could see that he was somewhat nervous, considering how he was fumbling with his cloak when he pulled it away from his face.

“What is it that you desire, Arosa?” Charlie called, sounding very regal and important.

“I want to pledge my fealty to the crown of Moondoor,” Cas said and as always, when he was acting, it came out a bit stiff. But most of the people here weren’t stellar actors, so he wasn’t really sticking out.

“Interesting! And do you aim to aid us, even if it our path turns us against your own tribe?” Charlie challenged, which Cas rewarded with a confused frown.

“I will be loyal to you, but I will not be sharing my tribes’ sacred secrets,” he eventually said.

“Well, well. I have a feeling that you are only doing this to win the affection of my handmaiden,” Charlie said, which was rewarded with some whistling from the crowd. “The crowd loves a good interspecies romance,” Charlie told Dean, loud enough for the front rows to hear it and laugh with her. “Well! I think I will have to keep a very keen eye on you, to figure out your loyalties!”

“Uhm…” Cas said when it was clear that his audience was over and Charlie had already spoke her verdict. “What does that mean?”

“It means that you can get the rogue status now. There’s more info in the pamphlet and you can get a patch that shows your status if you want,” Boltar explained. Cas shot Dean a look, but eventually he nodded and sat back down in the crowd, pulling his information pamphlet out and studying it. And the audience continued on.

After the audience the swearing in of the guard happened, which meant they were performing some show battles, led by Dean before Charlie formally accepted players into her guard. Once Dean was done going through the choreographed battles, he watched on some other play fights from the sidelines. This was when Cas chose to walk up to him.

“Impressive fight,” he said and Dean couldn’t quite keep back the out of character grin. “You looked very elegant.”

“Thank you,” Dean said. “And? Figured out if you want to be a rogue?”

“I suppose. It’s the only way to be close to you,” he said earnestly and Dean wasn’t sure if Cas was still playing. “It does seem somewhat uncomfortable though. I have to give up my resting place in the Arcane Woods but can also not sleep here. My only options are paying to sleep in the inn, or sleeping in the wild.”

“It’s still tents. You won’t have to sleep outside in this weather,” Dean explained. “But the wild gives you a couple of negative stats that you take into quests.”

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“Tough luck, buddy,” Dean said, but he did reach out to pat Cas on the shoulder.

“I suppose it is worth it,” Cas answered, again with that honest, adoring look that made Dean feel weak in the knees.

“Uh, well. Maybe,” Dean said, trying to get back into character. “Since you have been so honorable, I will put in a good word with the Queen.”

“Thank you, fair handmaiden.”

“Just say Spears, man,” Dean grumbled, then he gave Cas another pat on the shoulder before he went back to Charlie’s side.

“Alright. Thank you, Spears. See you at dinner?” Cas called after him.

“Sure,” Dean said with a laugh.

Tonight’s dinner was a fish pie, which Dean eyed somewhat warily even though he knew that he had nothing to fear from the cooking staff. Cas however made no complaints at all, happy for Dean to pay again.

“I do have some money to pay for a night at the inn, but I will have to find some means to make money tomorrow,” Castiel explained, digging into his food. “Mmm. Good.”

“You don’t seem particularly worried,” Dean said.

“It’s a game, Dean. So no, I’m not worried,” Cas said with a small laugh. Dean shrugged. He ate some spoons of his fish pie (which was good, but shouldn’t call itself a pie), then, as casually as he could, he decided to bring up what Charlie had told him earlier:

“The Queen has given her permission for you to court me, if I wish to be courted. And if you wish to court me,” he said. Castiel blinked up at him.

“Is there something particular that has to be done for a courting?”

“Not necessarily. You can give me tokens of your affections for example and there’s a pretty fun lover’s quest you can go on to win my affection. Though I’m not sure even you would be able to pull it off at your current level and with an empty inventory,” Dean told him. Cas’ nose scrunched up adorably at that.

“Can’t you go on a quest to win my affections? You are on a higher level than I am,” he argued. Dean laughed.

“Nope!” he decided. “And I won’t promise to accept your courtship either!” As expected, Cas pouted at that, though it was clear that he was only playing. His smile was back in place pretty quickly.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” he admitted. “Thank you for letting me play.”

“Uh, sure,” Dean said.

“And if you don’t want for our characters to be together, that’s no issue either. I won’t push for it. I want you to be comfortable and to continue to have fun too,” Cas told him.

“It’s fine, babe. I’ll give you a signal or something if you’re doing something I don’t like,” Dean assured him, gently rubbing Cas’ shoulder. “Alright?”

“Alright,” Cas answered with a smile. “But does that mean you don’t mind me courting you?”

“Well, you can try. But you’ll have to work hard for Spear’s affections,” Dean said with a wink.

“Oh, I don’t know about that. This is the third dinner that you’ve bought me after all,” Castiel answered cheekily, then he leant in to give Dean a quick kiss.

“Very daring of you,” Dean said but he was grinning too.

Getting ready for a day full of quests, Dean spent extra care packing his bag for the day. It was filled with potions and items, such as Arosa’s hard won token. There was another token he was turning around in his fingers now, while Charlie was still snoring on her cot. After a while he put it into his pocket not yet decided if he would come to use it or not, then he had kicked the leg of Charlie’s bed, waking the Queen.

“The Caves of Despair are waiting for us, your Majesty,” Dean announced with a big grin. Charlie squinted up at him, but then she groaned and turned around, showing Dean the middle finger. But she did reluctantly get up.

This was going to be their last day on the campaign and Dean planned to make the most of it. He knew Cas was going to do some souvenir shopping for Jack today, so even if he wasn’t going to level up so he could start the lover’s quest, he was probably entertained as well. Dean decided to just have as much fun as possible before he had to head home.

Somewhat around midday when he and some of the people who had joined him on the latest quest were sitting around to talk through their performance, Dean spotted one of them coming back from a toilet break with a piece of parchment.

“What do you have there?” Dean asked and the woman proudly held up a painting of a very familiar looking potato. Or guinea pig. Or whatever.

“A rogue elf is selling these on the market place. It’s really cute! And he seems to be quite popular!” she explained with a grin.

“Ah, Arosa? The one who wants to court Spears?” the guy to Dean’s right asked.

“Oh! That’s him? How cute!” the proud potato painting owner cooed. “You should go and buy a picture too!” Dean refrained from saying that he already had a collection of potato shaped artwork lying around his house. There was one stuck to the fridge, which was Cas’ attempt at a cat, though Dean was pretty sure that Cas was drawing badly on purpose by now so they had a reason to playfully argue about it.

“Hm, maybe I will,” Dean mused and got up from the bench. The market was busy today, with everyone getting last minute things done. But it wasn’t hard to find Cas, who had set up a small table where the players were invited to set up and offer their services.

“I see you are keeping busy,” Dean said once he approached the table. Cas looked up from what he was drawing at once, his face surprised.

“Spears,” he said, sounding partially delighted but also somewhat embarrassed. “Welcome to my business.” He made a sweeping gesture over his table, where a selection of drawings was displayed. They were all done on thick paper and Dean recognized the watercolor set he used as one of the cheap ones they had organized for the blacksmith tent (where people could go to fix their costume and props). Most images on display were potato shaped, though Cas had brought some variation into them.

When Dean didn’t comment, Cas added:

“I found life as a rogue somewhat challenging. It puts a stigma on you, which I do not appreciate. But like this I can make some money and raise my reputation.”

“And is it working?” Dean wondered.

“It is. People are enjoying my artwork,” Cas insisted. “I was able to raise the price already. And once my art rises further in value and is sought after in Moondoor, it will make a good present for a potential love interest.”

“I see,” Dean said and Cas smiled up at him, showing his little glued on fangs again. He was so cute! Dean had to pull himself together. “It seems you still have a long way to go though. I don’t even know what I’m looking at.”

“Insults will not get you one of my artworks, only coins,” Cas insisted coolly.

“You keep your potatoes, Rosa,” Dean said but it was said lovingly. “I have to get back to my duties, but I suspect I will see you at the inn?”

“Of course,” Cas told him warmly, then he waved his hands at Dean. “Now leave, you scare away my customers!” Dean laughed, but he did step away and left Cas to bring his potatoes to the masses.

Dean dropped by Cas’ stall a couple of times, just to see how he was doing. Since the lover’s quest was pretty long, it was clear to Dean that Cas wouldn’t be able to finish it during this campaign and he would also not be able to get into the Queens’ good graces yet.

“I think I have to continue this next time,” Castiel admitted to him, though he seemed a bit shy when he did. “If it’s okay that I’m coming back?”

“Of course you can attend again,” Dean answered promptly because he didn’t like the insecure look. “Babe,” he continued, dropping the role for a second. “I’m absolutely fine with this being our couple’s thing.” Cas’ face lit up right away.


“Of course. I’d also be fine doing it as a family thing if the kid ever wanted to join in. Though I guess he’d be more interested in a Star Wars themed event.”

“Yes, I suppose he would,” Castiel agreed with a soft smile. “Thank you, Dean.” The temptation to just go to him and kiss him was nearly overwhelming, but he managed to control himself. He would have to keep at least a little bit of his character’s integrity up. Dean showed Cas a thumbs up instead and then stepped to the side when potential customers were approaching, giggling with delight at Cas’ potato art. Cas sent him one more soft smile, before he turned towards the customers. Dean watched him for a moment, but then he touched his pant pocket. Maybe it was too early, but he had a token for Cas too, to show him his affection. Without pulling it out of his pocket he turned it around in his fingers, admittedly nervous. Later, maybe.

Even though the thought of the love token was constantly in the back of Dean’s mind now, he continued to have an absolute blast doing a couple more quest and just messing around with LARPing friends he hadn’t seen in months. The ringing of the bells that warned them that the closing ceremony was starting in an hour took him by surprise and he and Charlie scrambled back to her tent to get ready. The event still continued on after the official ceremony, as a regular renaissance fair that opened up to the public for the rest of the weekend. But quests would be closed until next time and Dean and Cas had decided to head on home after the ceremony.

After the closing ceremony and before his team would be getting into the mead, Cas found Dean hanging out by Charlie’s tent, sorting through his inventory.

“Handmaiden,” Cas called and Dean looked up.

“You should not be here, elf,” he chastised, but he wore a smile on his face.

“Did… did you not ask to meet me here?” Cas whispered, leaning in slightly, and Dean laughed. Castiel narrowed his eyes at Dean, but then he straightened back up. He reached into his coat and pulled out a parchment. It was one of his potato pictures, though Dean was pretty sure he was looking at a peach.

“For you, as a token of my affection,” Castiel said. “I’m still a lowly rogue elf, and this is not much, but I still want you to know you have my heart.” Dean took the picture, studying it and then Cas.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice coming out a bit strained due to his surprisingly strong emotions. He looked back down at the image, mostly to gather his nerves. “I… actually have a token for you too.”

“You do?” Cas asked, his voice sounding both surprised but also excited. Dean nodded and put the potato picture down on the decorative barrel next to him. Then he reached into his pocket.

“But it means different things inside the game and outside,” he warned Cas gently. “And I’m saying this as Dean, not as Spears.” He pulled out the token, holding it out to Cas. He watched Cas’ eyes widen, his surprise written all over his face when he looked up at Dean’s face. But Dean also very clearly saw excitement build up quickly in Cas’ expression, so he got down on his knee.

“I… actually I don’t have a speech prepared. I have been carrying this ring around for weeks, ever since it hit me in January that I wanted nothing more than ask you. And it just feels right to give you this now. You’re wonderful, Cas. You’re cute and gentle and you’ve been such a great support to me this last couple of months. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me and I love you more than I can say. And I want to ask you if you want to be mine. Marry me, mate me. I’ll proudly wear your ring and your bite.” Castiel’s bright smile almost made Dean want to cry, but he swallowed it down for now.

“Yes, of course, Dean,” Cas answered promptly and pulled Dean up to his feet so he could wrap him in a crushing hug. “That was very romantic.”

“Eh, I’m not so sure about that,” Dean said. Cas drew back, his eyes clearly shining, and kissed him.

“Yes, Dean. It was perfect,” he insisted and then he stepped away enough to hold out his hand to Dean. Dean grinned and slipped the ring on Cas’ finger, glad that it fit.

“Well, the potato art was also really romantic. I have a very talented fiancé.” Castiel rolled his eyes fondly, then he pulled Dean in for another, much longer kiss.

Charlie of course, hawk that she was, spotted the ring almost immediately when Dean brought Cas to the informal Moondoor crew closing party.

“He is a rogue elf-“ Boltar protested.

“He’s wearing a ring on his ring finger now, Gerry! That’s new!” Charlie shouted, then she turned back to Dean and Cas, hands clasped. “You guys!!!”

“Yeah, we got engaged. At a LARPing party. God, Cas, we’re such nerds,” Dean said, putting his palms over his face. Cas rubbed his back soothingly.

“If you had told me, we could have prepared something nice!” Charlie said and she almost spilled her cup of mead in her hurry to wrap both Cas and Dean in fierce hugs. “I’m so happy for you two! You’re my OTP!”

“What?” Cas asked.

“Better don’t ask,” Dean whispered, wrapping his arm around Cas’ waist. “Just let Cas sit with the gang and maybe treat us to a round of mead, and that’s all the celebration we need, Queen.”

“Of course! Mead for Arosa and Spears! Moondoor’s cutest couple!”

“We’re not yet a couple in Moondoor,” Dean reminded her, but Charlie was already pouring mead from the little cauldron into two mugs.

“Cheers!” Charlie announced and the entire group toasted Dean and Cas.

“Thank you,” Cas said, then he looked up to Dean. “Thank you, Dean.”

“Thank you,” Dean corrected, then he kissed him.

It was difficult to extricate themselves from the party, but Dean and Cas still had to drive home. Reluctantly, they said good-bye to Charlie and the others and  went to get their stuff from the vault.

“We should take a picture to commemorate the occasion,” Dean said, “before we get undressed. So we can show our future kids how embarrassing we were.”

“The word you’re looking for is romantic, Dean,” Cas insisted, but he did happily pose for a couple selfie, showing off his engagement ring.

“That’s going into the family chat later,” Dean decided, then they went to get undressed.

A long, wonderful couple of days was ending, but Dean was happy to leave the gates of Moondoor behind. Arosa and Spear’s story could wait. Much more interesting things lay ahead of Dean and Cas now.

Chapter Text

Castiel couldn’t stop looking at his hand. While driving home from their Moondoor adventure, his eyes kept being drawn away from the road to his hands on the steering wheel, where the simple engagement ring gleamed dimly in the sun. Despite his frequent, awed distraction, he managed to drive himself and Dean back home without ending up in a ditch.

“You okay, babe?” Castiel looked up from the trunk, finding Dean standing next to it, a gentle smile on his face. Cas returned it, then he pulled their suitcases out of the trunk.

“Of course. I’m happy,” he told him, handing Dean his suitcase, then he held up his hand again, watching how the light of the garage reflected on the gold as he moved his hand.

“You seem to be in disbelief,” Dean said with a small chuckle, then he nodded his head towards the door that connected to their house.

“A bit. But also not really,” Cas admitted. Dean and Cas decided to leave their suitcases in the laundry room to be a problem for another day. It was pretty late and all Cas wanted was to make up for all the time he couldn’t wrap himself around his boyfriend. Fiancé even. Cas felt a surge of giddy delight go through him and he had to ball his hands into fists so as not to make a fool of himself. Dean seemed to notice and took hold of one of Cas’ hands, gently caressing it with his thumb.

“Yeah…? Was it okay though? I know it was a bit weird…,” he said and now it was Cas’ turn to give his hand a squeeze.

“Dean, it was wonderful,” Cas insisted though the insecure little smile stayed on Dean’s face. Cas tugged at Dean’s hand, guiding them into their living room where they sat down on the couch.

“Ah… Modern luxuries,” Dean said, getting comfortable.

“You weren’t the one sleeping in a bunk bed,” Cas reminded him, but Dean just stuck out his tongue at him. He pulled Cas towards him, wrapping his arm around his shoulder. “It’s silly but I did miss you in Moondoor.”

“Nah, it’s not silly at all,” Dean promised and kissed his head. “I’m the one who proposed to you during a LARPing event. If someone’s silly then it’s me.”

“Cut it out,” Cas chastised, lightly pinching Dean’s side, which made him jump a bit. “I loved it. It was romantic.”

“Hmm,” Dean muttered. Cas patted the place he had pinched apologetically.

“Do you want to know how Luke proposed?” Cas asked and received a little hum in return. “We were living together and I was the one to make the budget for us. He came up to me with a rose and told me that I had to budget in the expenses for a wedding.”

“Really? And what did you think about that?” Dean asked with a chuckle.

“Well… To be honest I found that very romantic at the time, so maybe I just am happy to be proposed to in the first place,” Cas mused and was glad when Dean started laughing for real.

“You’re very easy to please,” Dean concluded, petting Cas’ hair gently.

“You love me. Why should I not be pleased?” Cas challenged, then he lifted his hand to study his ring again. “I’m very pleased.”

“Me too,” Dean told him.

“I should probably call Jack and tell him, before we put it in the family chat,” Cas mused and then he turned his head to look up at Dean. “Do you think we can just skip the engagement party and the fuss and elope?”

“As much as I would love to just load you into my car and get married at the first place that will have us, I’m pretty sure that my mom would kill me if I did,” Dean said with a laugh.

“We can’t have that,” Cas decided. “But weddings take a lot of organizing.”

“Don’t worry about that, I’m sure we’ll manage to get hitched before the year ends,” Dean promised. “We Winchesters are pretty efficient if we set our mind to something.”

“It’s not like I want to deprive you of a grand wedding, if that’s what you want, Dean,” Castiel told him, sitting up properly so he could face Dean. Dean seemed surprised by that.

“Oh… No? I don’t think so? I don’t want a rich people dream wedding,” he said. “Though I think it might be nice to share that moment with our families. To openly promise myself to you in front of everyone. Maybe… you taking my name?” The last part he had asked rather shyly.

“Of course, Dean,” Cas said at once. “I’d be honored to be a Winchester.” Dean instantly beamed at him. He lent forward slightly so he could put both of his hands on Cas’ cheeks and pull him close for a gentle, lingering kiss.

“And mating?” Castiel asked eventually, still feeling Dean’s warm breath on his slightly wet lips. Instead of answering, Dean kissed him again, this time he was much more insistent. Cas could feel his sharp teeth brushing his sensitive lips, before Dean’s mouth travelled across his cheek. He lightly bit at his jaw before he buried his nose in Cas’ neck.

“Yeah,” Dean said, sounding breathless, his voice almost a growl. If Cas didn’t love the sensation of Dean seeking out his scent that much, he would probably have climbed into Dean’s lap to put an end to what felt like delicious teasing. “Anytime.” Dean kissed his neck, then he drew back to study Cas. “But until I have hit a rut to show us that the suppressants have properly washed out, I don’t know if your bite will stick. And I really want your bite too, Cas.” Cas caressed Dean’s face, letting his fingertips glide over Dean’s lips.

“I want that too, Dean. Well do it once you’ve had your rut,” Cas promised. And he couldn’t wait. Maybe now, with the house, with their marriage and mating on the horizon, he would also be ready for that other, big step.

Dean’s rut crept up on them just a couple of weeks later. Cas found Dean restless and somewhat irritable on Monday morning. That wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary, because Dean – despite his alpha discipline – also had days on which everything was horrible unless he had a coffee.

“Maybe work from home today?” Cas had suggested when Dean glared at his ipad, while eating a nearly burnt slice of toast with the kind of expression Dean usually reserved for things like bird poop on his car.

“No, it’s alright. I have a couple of meetings today I don’t want to miss. Now that Jo is leaving, it’s all on me,” Dean said and took a sip of his coffee. He made a displeased noise, but then he put away his ipad and got up. Even though Roadhouse was a pretty easy-going company (it had to be, with Ash as its boss) Dean still insisted on dressing like he had at Sandover. He fussed with his tie, then he grabbed his coffee tumbler.

“Okay, see you tonight, babe,” Dean said, kissing Cas quickly before rushing out of the house. Cas thought nothing much of it and went to work after enjoying his breakfast.

He did get a message from Charlie halfway through the afternoon though, which made him lift his eyebrow.

“Heeeeeey. Not to pry, but did you and Dean fight?”

“Not at all,” Cas texted back. “Why do you ask?”

“He’s been going from super irritable to crying into his salad!” When Cas read this message he got up from his desk at once, worry gnawing at him. Did something happen that Cas hadn’t heard about yet? Was he hurt? Did something happen to his family? Before he could work himself up over it though another message came in: “But since you two aren’t fighting, he’s probably just feeling the beginnings of a rut. I’ve known the dude since college. He’s emotionally all over the place. I send him home. Enjoy! 👍” Cas looked at his phone in surprise. Dean was in a proper rut? Already? He hadn’t expected it until later based on Dean’s speculation. That at least explained his irritability this morning. Cas decided to end work early. Luckily, it was the weekend and they had no social obligations.

When Cas went to check their bathroom for supplies, he did notice how nervous he was. Sex with Dean was familiar to him now and he wasn’t particularly worried about how we would be during a rut off of suppressants. Cas had been married long enough to know how ruts worked. But this was Dean and… well… Castiel studied the condoms in his hands, specifically made for knotting. He put them away again, but took the lube into their bedroom.

Then he went down into the kitchen to prepare something to eat. He wasn’t sure what Dean would be like, but alphas in rut tended to get very hungry, for all kinds of things.

By the time food was ready and cooling and he had managed to grab a pie from the bakery close by, he heard Dean arrive. Castiel keenly listened to the sound of the garage door opening and closing. Then, eventually, Dean came into the house.

“Babe, you won’t believe it,” Dean called and Cas stepped out of the kitchen to meet Dean in the hallway. Dean was tugging at his tie and his collar, clearly uncomfortable and sweaty already. “Oh, you’re downstairs.” Castiel smiled at him. “Babe, I’m in rut.”

“Charlie told me,” Castiel said then he went up to Dean to kiss him. Dean drew back a little but then he seemed to think better of it and returned the kiss. He sighed and wrapped his arms around Cas, leaning his weight on him. “Are you alright?”

“I’m a mess already.”

“Do you want to shower and eat? Or do you want to go upstairs to our bedroom?” Cas asked, patting Dean’s back.

“Bedroom?” he asked shyly. “You smell so good, Cas. So good,” he insisted and started rubbing his nose against Cas’ neck, which sent a shiver down Cas’ spine.

“Alright,” he said and took a step back. Dean whined, but Cas took his hand. “Let me take care of you.” Dean shot him an embarrassed but also grateful look and let himself be led upstairs. Cas supposed that it would be a long but interesting weekend.

In those intense moments of Dean’s rut the question had been in the forefront of Cas’ mind at all times. He thought about Dean’s teeth, sending goosebumps down Cas’ spine as they grazed his chin and the delicate skin of his neck. He wanted to breathe out a plea, he thought about it as he followed the trail of freckles on Dean’s throat. He thought he saw the wonder and a spark of desire for it when Dean looked at him with dark eyes. His eyes travelling all over Cas, but then he ducked his head down again, placed a gentle kiss on Cas shoulder and the moment had passed.

And it was better this way, because they were middle aged men, who didn’t just bite each other in the heat of the moment, putting an accidental, but binding bite on each other during a sexual state of exception. Yes, Dean and Cas had talked about mating and how they both wanted it, but they hadn’t talked about how they wanted to do it.

Castiel sighed to himself, his thoughts spiraling with nowhere else to go while he was sitting in the bath tub. He was sore and maybe not necessarily only pleasantly so. Heats, those he could manage easily, especially with heat relievers, but Dean’s first off-suppressant rut had been pretty intense. But it was worth it, it had been the hottest sex he had had in a while. Maybe, just maybe, Cas had a thing for fierce alphas after all. Even though he was alone in the bathroom with his thoughts he still felt his face heat up slightly. How ridiculous of him.

He opened the drain and then, with a bit of a hiss, he got out of the tub. He put on his bathrobe and then toweled his hair reasonably dry before he got out of the bathroom. He crossed the corridor and then peeked into the bedroom. It still smelled of sex in here, but the window was open and the bed had been stripped. Dean however was nowhere to be seen. Peculiar. Cas checked his phone, seeing that he had missed a couple of messages, but nothing all too pressing. He quickly answered Jack’s texts, then he went on the search for Dean.

He found him in the kitchen, sluggishly putting fruit into his blender.

“You’re up,” Cas said and Dean slowly lifted his hand but couldn’t commit to an answer. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I’m happy, I’m sated, I’m tired,” Dean said which had Cas chuckle. Dean started the blender and the loud sound stopped any other conversation. Cas didn’t have to say anything though. He merely went to the other end of the kitchen island where Dean was working and looked at him fondly. Dean put the smoothie in two glasses and handed Cas one. “Post fuck smoothie,” Dean announced. Cas laughed, but he did drink it, watching Dean seem to come back to the land of the living as the minutes went by.

“Jesus, that was one good weekend,” Dean eventually said, “though I’m sore as hell.” He looked at Cas, clearly noticing that he was not sitting down on the stools by the kitchen island. “You?”

“Kinda, though the bath helped.” Dean’s expression was somewhat hard to read. The smile had slipped and he seemed contemplative. “I’m fine, Dean. I had fun.”

“Yeah, me too.” Still, Dean’s expression didn’t quite change.

“What’s wrong, Dean?” Cas asked.

“Did you think about it?” Dean wondered, frustratingly enigmatic. “Mating.”


“Hm.” Castiel put his glass on the counter, rolling it between his palms.

“I did…,” he confessed. “But I thought we shouldn’t do it without first talking about it. Of course, it was tempting. Every time you touched my neck I thought about it.” He looked up at Dean, finding Dean rubbing his neck. “You?”

“Yeah, I did too. It was so tempting, but as you said… communication on things like that is important,” Dean agreed. “Didn’t mean you didn’t drive me half-crazy with your tantalizing neck.” Castiel huffed a laugh, though he was pleased and relieved that Dean had struggled with the same desire to just do it.

They smiled at each other over the kitchen island, until Dean apparently got tired of standing, so they relocated to the living room where they finished their smoothies, both on their phones.

“Charlie’s probably going to be insufferable on Monday,” Dean huffed as he scrolled through his messages. “And did you tell Jack? Because he forwarded me an article called ten things to know about sharing your rut.”

“I might have mentioned it,” Cas admitted sheepishly. “He asked for my help with one of his papers, so I had to tell him why I couldn’t help,” he added when Dean sent him an unimpressed look. “And you have to admit that his attempt to help you is sweet?”

“Well, at least he has that article to read when he hits his first rut,” Dean teased, knowing very well that this was one of Cas’ weak spots. Dean chuckled when Cas sent him a grumpy look. But eventually Dean put his empty smoothy glass on the coffee table and then drew his legs up on the couch, cuddling into Cas’ side. Cas wrapped his arm around him, petting his hair.

“You’re so comfy, Cas,” Dean said with a happy sigh.

“Are you going to sleep?” Cas wondered when Dean closed his eyes with a hum. “Aren’t we going to negotiate our mating bites.” Dean opened one eye, never losing the smile on his lips.

“We could do it during sex, or casually while watching TV, or after a romantic date. Whenever you’re ready I am,” Dean said. “Everybody does it differently. Though I’m not sure if the whole mating euphoria during sex is true.” Castiel looked down at Dean, now caressing his cheeks.

“Well, we could figure it out,” he suggested and Dean looked up at him.

“Sounds like a plan,” Dean told him with a soft smile. Castiel nodded, then he leaned down slightly to give Dean a kiss.

“Do you want to do it today?”

Dean looked up from where he was trying to get out of his dress shoes. He was standing iin the corridor, dressed in a suit and tie and suspenders, missing one shoe.

“Huh?” Castiel supposed he should probably let Dean get settled at home before catching him off guard like that. But the entire day Cas had had such a hard time concentrating, his thoughts constantly straying to Dean, to how it had been during rut, how he missed Dean’s teeth brushing his neck. This kind of daydreaming didn’t tend to happen to Cas too much, at least not outside of heat, which he wasn’t expecting for some time.

“You okay, Cas? You look kind of constipated,” Dean said with a small grin. Cas snapped out of his thoughts and then narrowed his eyes at Dean once the words registered.

“I am okay. But it seems I am weirdly aroused today,” he admitted and that knocked the grin right off of Dean’s face.

“Uh, really? Weirdly aroused how? Heat coming up?”

“No. I’ve just been thinking about mating frequently and I suppose… well…” Cas shrugged. Dean finally got out of his second shoe. He chuckled, coming up to Cas with open arms, which Cas took advantage of.

“Nothing weird about that!” Dean insisted and then his nose brushed against Cas’ neck, and Cas bit back a little moan. “But do you really want to do it now?”

“Maybe not in the middle of the hallway, but yes? If you want?” Castiel said, not yet willing to pull away from Dean, happy to have Dean’s lips seeking out his neck, brushing little teasing kisses against his skin.

“Of course I want that,” Dean answered. He let himself be pulled up by Cas, who was far too excited to try to send Dean seductive looks over his shoulder or maybe even initiate some form of make belief chase like in the movies Dean liked to watch. Not that Dean needed any kind of further enticement by the look he was sending Cas when they made it to the bedroom.

Cas lifted his eyebrow at him and Dean showed him a bit toothy grin.

It was sex like any other time, but still there was something else they chased towards as they mapped out each other’s bodies with tongues and teeth. Cas felt Dean’s mouth searching his neck, trying to find the perfect position for his bite.

“Where do you want it?” Dean asked him and Cas was surprised that he was still capable of speech after an orgasm. Cas wasn’t that confident. So he merely reached up and showed him. Dean sent him one long look, before he lowered his mouth back to Cas’ skin. Sucking experimentally before his tongue was replaced by teeth.

“Dean, please,” Cas managed to say. Then he felt the sharp sting of a bite, quite a bit more uncomfortable than he had expected, but it passed about as quickly as it came. He felt Dean lavish the bite with kisses and licks and Cas didn’t know what else to do but hang on to Dean as tightly as he could.

Dean eventually pulled back and sent Cas a somewhat dazed look, but before Cas could worry, Dean blinked a couple of times and then he studied Cas.

“Well…” He licked his lips, a smear of blood staining his teeth before he closed his mouth to contemplate Cas. Cas could only stare at him, breathless, his neck pulsating along with his heartbeat. “My turn.” He tapped his neck and Cas eyes fixed on the spot. Slowly, he rose to his knees and put both of his hands on Dean’s shoulders. Cas looked at Dean, his gaze searching but Dean returned it with no hesitation or doubt. Cas moved closer, bending down to put his lips on Dean’s neck. He felt so nervous, filled to the brim with anticipation and the intense tingling of the mating bite. He opened his mouth, pressing his teeth against Dean’s skin, just lightly enough not to hurt him. He heard and felt Dean breathe in sharply.

“Cas, go for it,” he said. “Please.” Cas squeezed Dean’s shoulders and then he bit. It was an odd sensation to feel his teeth pierce skin, that first taste of blood on his tongue and then Dean’s scent bloomed across Cas’ awareness, more intense than ever.

He opened his mouth again and straightened up, staring down at the obvious bite mark with shock. It looked alarming, so he went back in straight away, licking it like Dean did, trying to soothe it. The blood flow stopped almost immediately and Cas breathed a sigh of relief. He sat back, staring at the mating bite and then up at Dean.

“That… was weird,” Cas admitted, rubbing his fingers over his lips. Dean burst out laughing.

“It was, wasn’t it?” he asked. “I kinda get why people like doing this during heat or rut. Maybe we should have done it right as we came, instead of afterwards.”

“Yeah,” Cas admitted, still running his tongue over his teeth. The taste of blood wasn’t nice at all.

“But we’re mated now, Cas!” Dean exclaimed. He pushed at Cas until he dropped back down to the mattress. Dean lay down next to him, wincing lightly before he grabbed his neck.

“Maybe we should get that cleaned up. I don’t want to give you an infection,” Castiel said.

“Don’t worry, I got my tetanus shot recently,” Dean joked, which Cas didn’t find that funny, then he fell silent.

“Are you okay?” Cas asked, worried by his silence.

“Yeah,” Dean said, distractedly rubbing the bite. “I’m happy, Cas.” Dean turned his head and smiled at Cas, which Castiel easily returned. “You’re my mate now.”

“And you are mine,” Cas answered softly. Dean’s smile widened and he shuffled closer so he could kiss Cas. “I love you, Dean.”

“I love you too, Cas.”

Cas stood in the kitchen, the early summer sunshine lighting up the room. He could hear people outside, laughing and talking through the open backdoor and the window. Inside the house it was relatively quiet. A warm breeze was coming inside, fragrant with whatever Dean had sizzling on the grill.

It was May now, edging into June. Finally, the house was ready and everyone managed to come over to Chicago for a weekend. Even Sam and Jess were here, having made the long journey from California and they would whisk away Jack for his Summer break once they had to leave again. The house was full, with their family, a welcome change to how quiet and empty it usually was. (“For now!” Dean was always quick to remind him whenever Cas took to wandering the empty rooms, unsure what to do with them.)

But this was more than just a belated housewarming party.

Cas looked out of the window, one hand on the counter, the other absent mindedly brushing over his mating bite. It was still tender to the touch, but not exactly unpleasant. The salad he had been preparing was forgotten in front of him as he watched Dean work the grill through the window. He wore the bite on the side of his neck proudly. As any scratches and bruises Dean got, the bite was healing fast and eventually only silver lines would be left, forming a beautiful, perfect shape on Dean’s neck.

That was how Jimmy found him; staring at Dean’s neck and daydreaming about the moment they had exchanged bites. (Maybe, in a bit of a romanticized version. Without the coppery blood and the sitting in the bathroom, putting a plaster on it.)

“Well, I guess we’re not gonna get any salad today,” Jimmy joked. Castiel startled out of his thoughts and embarrassedly continued to mix the sauce into the salad. “Hey, don’t worry about it.” Jimmy rested against the counter, crossing his arms and grinning at Cas. But his expression wasn’t teasing, actually, it was rather wistful.

“I felt exactly the same. When Amelia and I exchanged bites it was like I was on cloud nine for days and days. And I couldn’t stop touching it all the time,” Jimmy said.

“I do vaguely remember you being insufferable back then,” Cas said with a small smile. “But you generally were insufferable as a teenager.” Jimmy boxed his shoulder lightly.

“Seriously though, how are you doing?” Jimmy asked. Dean and Cas’ mating hadn’t come as a surprise to anyone, though the whole family had still celebrated when Dean announced that the house warming would also be a mating celebration.

“I’m fine,” Cas said, again catching himself touching the bite as if he had to make sure it was really there. “I’m very happy.”

“Nervous too?”

“I suppose,” Cas admitted. “I am looking forward to the wedding. I would be happy with a private, simple ceremony. We are mated after all, so the wedding should be nothing but a formality. But Dean assured me that his family would be very upset if we just eloped. And truth to be told, I think Dean would be too. He’s more of a romantic than he looks.” Jimmy laughed.

“I’m actually not surprised. Neither that Dean is invested in a wedding, nor that you’re not. This isn’t your first rodeo after all,” he said. Castiel groaned.

“Oh, don’t remind me. The wedding to Luke was such a ridiculously pompous affair…”

“Which you liked at the time. Until everyone started fighting as if it was an Olympic sport,” Jimmy remembered. “They really enjoyed themselves though. Such a weird family.”

“Agreed,” Cas said and finished preparing the salad before he got distracted again. “I’m fine with going along with what Dean wants. And if all I got out of it was seeing Dean in a nice suit, that’d be totally fine with me.”

“And then?”

“And then what?” Cas asked with a lifted eyebrow, handing Jimmy one of the salad bowls to carry out.

“You know. Your mated, you’re getting married, you have this big house… Are you going to have babies?” Cas laughed at that.

“The chances of you getting pregnant now that you’re mated are pretty high,” Jimmy reminded him, but there was no warning tone in his voice. He sounded curious actually.

“Yes, I know. But we’ve both been on suppressants for a while. It might take us some time, but it is something that we want,” Cas told him. “We’ll see what happens.” Through the window they could both see Dean showing Jack and Claire how to work the grill. Cas had absolutely no doubt that Dean was going to be a great dad.

“Could you imagine having another child now that Claire’s grown?” Cas asked his twin, then he studied Jimmy, who seemed surprised by the question. Though it didn’t take him long to answer:

“Not really,” he admitted. “But I’m not you,” he added. “Just because I think it’s been too long for me, doesn’t mean it is too long for you. You have a wonderful new partner and you always wanted more children. You’ll be fine.” Cas nodded though it was still something he did worry about. Would he be able to become pregnant again? Would he be a good parent now, after so many years? Would Jack really be okay having a baby sibling now that he was grown?

“Hey, how is the salad coming along?” Dean strolled into the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel. When Jimmy and Cas both turned to look at him, he hesitated and lifted his hands. “Uh, did I interrupt some secret twin conversation?”

“Nope,” Jimmy said with a grin. “I caught Cas ogling you through the window and we got side tracked talking about stuff.”

“Oh, well, I’m awfully flattered,” Dean said with an easy grin, approaching so he could kiss Cas. But then he pulled the salad bowl out of Cas’ hands. “But we’re actually ready to eat. You can ogle me all you want across the table.”

“Gladly,” Cas answered with a smile. He and Jimmy followed Dean out into the generous backyard, where they had set up tables and benches. The entire garden was filled with people Cas loved, all of them happy for him and Dean.

“Are you alright?” Dean asked, standing close behind him, keeping his hand on Cas’ back.

“Yes. Sorry. I’m still in a bit of a daze,” Cas admitted and turned his head enough so he could press a light kiss to Dean’s neck, right over his mating bite. Dean chuckled warmly, wrapping both arms around Cas’ middle, before he kissed Cas’ neck too.

“Aww, you two are very cute! But we’d like to eat!” Claire called and when Cas looked up, he could see her grinning at him over his phone.

“That’s one of the photo album,” Kaia said, “very cute.”

“Alright, alright. Calm down,” Dean said, waving his hands at them. “Everyone eat!”

“Yes! Thank you!” Jack said and started tucking in at once, always appreciative when Dean was cooking. Dean and Cas sat down, though not across from each other, but right next to each other, because somehow, they couldn’t quite leave each other’s sides yet.

And they didn’t have to.

Dean and Cas chose to get married in September, three months after they exchanged their mating bite. Dean had been busy at work, as was Cas, but their families were there to put their full enthusiasm into organizing the small ceremony. Dean and Cas drove to Lawrence to get married in the same church where Dean’s parents got married.

Cas was nervously fidgeting with his suit in front of the mirror. He and Dean chose their suits together and Cas knew that Dean would look absolutely amazing in his tailored dark blue three-piece suit. Cas on the other hand?

“Dad, stop it. You look great,” Jack said from where he was perched on his chair, patiently enduring his father’s nervous fidgeting. Cas looked away from his suit to Jack. The boy was tanned from the weeks spent with Sam and Jess and looked very handsome in his beige suit and neatly combed hair.

“I’m sorry. It’s just…,” Cas said, but then he turned back to the mirror to button up his vest and then the suit over it. “We’ve had this fitted two months ago and you can that it doesn’t quite fit me anymore.”

“Dad. It’s fine! Nobody notices anything!” Jack assured him. Cas put his hands to his stomach. Maybe he was just imagining things.

“Well, people could assume I’m just a bit bloated.”

“Maybe. Besides, did you know that according to google at 14 weeks the baby is as big as a peach?” He showed Cas his phone where there was a visual representation. Cas heaved a sigh and looked at himself in profile. The jacket did actually hide it pretty well. Jack put down his phone and tilted his head at Cas. “Why are you so nervous about it? So what if people see that you’re pregnant?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I don’t want it to be the focus of today,” Cas admitted.

“Oh, I think you won’t get around that. Dean won’t be able to keep his hands off of you or the baby!” Jack warned him with a serious expression, as if he was worried that Dean was going to blow his cover. And yeah, he was pretty sure Dean was going to do just that. And he wasn’t all that worried. He just…

“I can’t explain it,” Cas admitted.

“Maybe you’re having old fashioned thoughts. That you got pregnant before the wedding. But that’s not unusual today. So don’t worry. Be proud!” Jack said. Cas sighed but he did smile at his son.

“You’re right, thank you Jack. What would I do without you?” he asked fondly and Jack beamed at him.

“Hey guys, are you ready?” Claire poked her head in. She showed them her phone. “It’s almost time!”

“Tell dad he doesn’t look like he’s bloated and we are ready,” Jack said, jumping up from his chair. Claire rolled her eyes and then came into the room, closing the door behind her. Claire was wearing a beautiful dress that glittered in the light, with a leather jacket over it.

“Nah, you’re just pregnant, dude.”

“Claire, that is a secret,” Jack told her, raising his finger to his lips. Claire huffed dismissively.

“Come on. I’m betting you a pumpkin spice latte that Dean will put his hand on Dean’s belly before the night is over and nobody will be surprised!” Cas looked at the two agree to the bet with a smile.

“What? You’re making a sappy face,” Claire said suspiciously when she turned to Cas to remind him of the time.

“If you two hadn’t schemed then we wouldn’t be here at all,” he said. “I’m just grateful.” Claire looked surprised for a moment, but then she grinned.

“And to think it all started with a swimsuit,” she said. “I hope you put this into your best man speech, Jack!”

“Of course!” he said and Cas widened his eyes. Wait, what?

“Oh, I don’t-“

“Time to go! Or they’re starting the wedding without you!” Claire grabbed Jack and they dashed out before Cas could object. Oh no. Cas tugged at his jacket once more, then he went to face the music.

Dean was grinning at him the moment the door opened, a wedding mix tape that Dean had made for him playing instead of a wedding march. Dean reached out to take Cas’ hand in his, pulling him close.

“You look beautiful.”

“So do you,” Cas said. And it was true. Dean always looked amazing and today was no exception. Cas couldn’t quite stop looking at Dean, almost missing everything the officiant said, though dutifully repeating his vows, while still looking at Dean and the hint of the mating bite peeking out from underneath his collar.

“You may kiss,” was finally announced and Dean lost no time to do just that.


“Yes,” Cas agreed, not feeling bad at all about the moisture in his eyes, because Dean was crying too. Dean pulled his hand up, kissing his knuckles where the simple wedding band rested. “I love you,” Cas told him. “So much.”

“And I love you,” Dean told him.

The exited the church accompanied by the clapping and cheering of their family.

Of course Jack had to tell everyone the detailed story of how Dean and Cas had found each other (making Cas worry about what others might think of his parenting). Of course the decoration of the wedding venue featured a lot of sunflowers. Of course there was a wedding pie next to a lovely wedding cake. And of course Dean had to put his hand possessively over Cas’ stomach, proudly grinning at the camera when they took pictures.

Cas wasn’t sure if Jack or Claire won the bet. Some of their family at least made a very valiant effort at being surprised to hear about it. But at least Cas’ worry about it evaporated the moment he noticed how happy everyone was for him.

He was mated and married to the love of his life. And they were expecting a child. Actually, everything was absolutely perfect.


Cas squinted into the Florida summer sun. The ocean glittered brightly and the sand was… well… everywhere.

He was sitting in the shade and– like the first time he had been here – he was somewhat uneasy about not wearing shorts and a t-shirt. But he was relaxing a little bit now, with his toes digging into the warm sand at the edge of his beach towel.

It had been two years since Dean and Cas met for a spontaneous trip to the beach and now, after skipping last year, they were finally back where they met in person for the first time. Along the water, Jack was carefully holding Emma’s little hands in both of his, waddling with her along the wet sand, pulling her up into the air whenever a wave gently lapped at the beach. Emma shrieked in delight, digging her toes into the soft sand the moment Jack put her back down. Cas watched his kids for a while, but then Dean emerged from the sea, beautiful and shining in the sun. He ruffled Jack’s hair and gave Emma a kiss, before he left them to their little game and approached Cas.

“Ah! Wonderful!” Dean announced and then he plopped himself down on the beach towel, tossing sand all over Cas.

“Dean,” Cas complained half-heartedly, shaking his e-reader to get the sand off it. Dean wiped his face and then ruffled his hair so it stuck up wildly. Somehow, he still managed to look utterly irresistible. Cas thought about licking all the salty drops off his face, but that probably wasn’t really appropriate for this family beach.

“The water’s really nice, babe. Aren’t you gonna go for a swim too?” Dean wondered.

“I will. Eventually,” he promised and pulled at his swimsuit a bit. The movement didn’t escape Dean’s watchful eyes.

“Still self-conscious?” he asked gently. Cas shrugged. “You really have no reason to be. You are beautiful and amazing.” Dean rolled over, covering Cas with his wet, cold body. Cas couldn’t quite hold back a shocked squeak to feel Dean’s weight on top of him. He really was cold! But then Dean started kissing Cas, absolutely no regard for whoever could see them.

“This is public indecency,” Cas complained between one kiss and the next, but he did start returning them, allowing his hands to travel down Dean’s broad shoulders to his sunflower speedo clad ass.

Their kissing got put to a rude end by someone throwing a beach ball at Dean. It made a smacking sound and then bounced off of his back.

“What the hell?” Dean asked, sitting up and pulling away the hand that had wandered under Cas’ bikini top.

Claire stood in front of them, blocking out the sun and looking smug. Out of the corner of his eye Cas could see Kaia run after the errant beach ball, which she retrieved with a celebratory call.

“I know you two are eager to get started on baby number two-“

“Three!” Jack interrupted, Emma in his arms. Claire rolled her eyes.

“You’re not a baby, Jack!” she reminded him, then she turned back to Dean and Cas. “But maybe keep it in your pants for a while longer! We should be taking a pic in our outfits before your buttcrack eats up your speedos, Dean.” Dean frowned at her, but he did pull at his speedo.

“We all coordinated, so it would be a waste not to get pictures,” Kaia agreed, tossing the beachball back to Claire.

“Fine,” Dean agreed and they found some friendly looking elderly couple who volunteered to take pictures of the happy family once they got a hold of Jess and Sam.

“Now! Sunflower family,” the old lady announced, holding the camera up, “say cheese!”

The end